Katy’s Blog

I Just Adore Chocolate Eclairs: Recipe!

Mmmm ,,, chocolate eclairs!

I have always loved cooking choux pastry. It is so easy to do and can be done using just one saucepan.,

I always had flour and eggs in my kitchen cupboards. So, it was so easy just to whip up the choux pastry for profiteroles. This was a delicious treat for my two sons when they arrived home from school.  I also enjoyed the eclairs, but my waistline didn’t. So I just had one profiterole for myself without the cream while they tucked in.

I am always fascinated as to the origins of particular cakes and pastries. On looking up the history of profiteroles, I discovered two interesting facts. The first is, many historians surmise the choux pastry per se dates back to the Italian cook Pantanelli. This particular chef worked for Queen Catherine de Medici of the late 16th century.

 However, the crème puff choux pastry was perfected by a French Chef, Antonin Careme. The pastry is used for those mouthwatering  Profiteroles.

 One interesting point is the name of this scrumptious pastry originates from the French word ‘choux’ for cabbage because of the cream-filled puffs’ shape.

So enjoy using this very simple recipe for delicious pastries.


RECIPE FOR CHOUX PASTRY & CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS.

Ingredients

60 grams/2 oz of plain flour

50 grams/1.7 oz of butter

150ml/¼ pint of water.

2 beaten eggs

Method

1, Sift salt and flour together.

2. Put water into the saucepan and add butter – slowly melt these two ingredients and then bring to the boil.

Switch off the heat and pour the flour into the mixture of water, flour and beaten eggs.

Stir until the mixture becomes a soft ball. Cool slightly by removing from heat. Add the beaten eggs beating briskly until the mixture is firm enough to form soft peaks as you lift with a spoon.

Shape as you wish. I used the shape for chocolate eclairs.

Bake in over mark 6 , 400 f /200 c for 10 minutes. After that, increase the heat to gas mark 7, 425 f /220 C and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

When baked, pierce the pastry to release any steam.

Coat with melted chocolate, and when hardened, fill with whipped double cream to your taste.

I DO HOPE YOU ENJOY THEM.


If you love a suspenseful Regency romance as much as I do, then I am sure you will love my novel: ‘Lady Lydia’s Plight’. The book is available in both Kindle and paperback versions at AMAZON UK and AMAZON US as well as various other markets.

The Duke of Medhampton invited Lady Lydia Fowler and Lady Olivia Faversham and their families to a week-long round of festivities. It would be an exciting week of hunting, with dancing and soirees in the evenings. As it was the beginning of the Summer Season, the guests would include an influx of debutantes with handsome dowries and suiters with suitable titles.
On the first morning of their stay, to Lady Lydia’s horror, she discovers her dear friend Lady Olivia brutally murdered in her bed. Lord Sebastian Elton, the fiancé of the slain young woman, is distraught. Overcome with grief, he vows to find and kill the fiend who took the life of his beloved Olivia.


I hope you enjoyed this post. If so, then check out my other many posts or my website:

Katy Walters Website

Bara Brith: A Welsh favourite of my mother … and her mother.

Bara Brith is another recipe from the Welsh side of my family. It was a favourite in my mother’s kitchen, and mine once I had a hungry hoard to feed.

Bara Brith

I was interested to read the history of Bara Brith.

According to Wikipedia, Bara is derived from the Welsh language and means bread. Brith means speckled. Apparently, a Welsh chef added mixed dried fruit to bread dough. It is believed to be the first version of the Welsh tea loaf.

I do know that this recipe has been handed down through the ages. The women of my Welsh family know this recipe by heart, and it is a recognized treat on a Sunday.

Bara Brith Recipe

  • 325 ml/11 fluid ounces of hot boiled tea
  • 230 ml/8 ounces of mixed dried fruit
  • 340 mg/12 ounces of self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 60 mg/2 oz. brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg

Pour the hot boiled tea over the fruit in a mixing bowl.  Leave to soak overnight.

Thoroughly grease a 1ltr/2 lb baking tin.

Next morning or day, pour the mixed fruit along with the tea into a bowl.  Add the egg. Mix gently.

Stir in the flour and then add the baking powder. Then stir in the brown sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined together.

If it is a bit stiff, pour in a little more hot water.

Make sure the mixture can drop easily off a large spoon.

Spread mixture evenly in the greased loaf tin and place into a preheated oven: approx. 170C/325F/Gas 3

Bake for around 1 and a half hours. For the last twenty minutes of cooking, cover with foil to avoid the crust burning.

Cool it for at least five minutes.

My mother would always leave it for a day in a cool dry place before eating, but it never lasts that long in our house.

Happy Eating.


If you like intriguing romance set in our modern topsy-turvy world then look no further than ‘Window to Love’: A wonderful new work by author Katy Walters. Available to purchase now at Amazon in either digital Kindle format or paperback: AMAZON UK or AMAZON US

Sam peered through the window; where was Tammy? After a life-threatening car accident, Samantha used a wheelchair and depended on her friend Tammy.
As Sam waited, she saw a large dog bound across the garden lawn to her window. Perhaps the dog was a stray?
Sam peered through the window and saw the dog trotting happily at the side of a reasonably handsome, reasonably aged man. As Sam lifted the curtain slightly for a better look, the man turned and waved. Sam shot back behind the curtain. ‘Blast!’ She didn’t want him knocking on her door. After all, she was home alone. She didn’t return the wave, and abruptly dropped the curtain.
Little did Sam realize this was just the beginning of a stream of giddy and sometimes frightening adventures with this reasonably good-looking man and his handsome dog.


I am so glad you have read my blog. Please stay a while to read more blog posts or my website pages:

Katy Walters Author – Regency Romance Crime Sci-Fi Horror

Welsh Cakes: A simple yet delicious family favourite.

Welsh cakes are a traditional food for the Welsh.  They are a quite simple sweet flatbread baked on a griddle. Below I offer you the Welsh Cakes recipe that I use.

Welsh Cakes Recipe
Scrumptious little Welsh cakes

They are practical and so delicious. The small round flat cakes gained popularity in the nineteenth century when used as a food supplement for the miners in the coal pits. They were easily wrapped and carried by the miners in their lunch tins. Along with the homecooked meat and fish pies in rich pastry, these delicious fruited cakes were a treat for the miners during their long hours working underground. The cakes were thickly spread with fresh butter and helped fill a hungry miner’s stomach.

A Family Favorite

This recipe has always been a favourite in my family.  The grandchildren also love them. Spread the cakes with fresh butter and eat them warm. You can even add jam/jelly or honey for a sweeter treat.

Using a griddle or bakestone, cook the cakes for about three minutes on each side. If you do not have a griddle or a bakestone, use your frying pan or oven. Keep an eye on the cakes and test for firmness. They should be a light golden colour.

Recipe for Welsh Cakes

230 mgs/8 ounces of self-raising flour

115 mgs/4 ounces of fresh butter, room temperature

2 dessert spoons of currants or other chopped dried fruit to your liking (you can add optional spoon of sugar).

1 fresh egg.

Instructions

  1. Rub the butter into the flour until you get a crumb texture.
  2. Add the dried fruit and sugar, and then gently stir in the egg.
  3. Mix the ingredients and form a ball of dough.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 5mm/1/4 inch thick.
  5. Cut into rounds using a pastry cutter, or the lip of an average mug if you don’t have a cutter.
  6. Butter a frying pan, griddle or bakestone and get the baking surface hot. Cook the dough rounds on the surface for roughly 2-3 minutes each side (eyeball this).
  7. Remove from the pan.

Some people like to coat the cooked cakes with sugar, but I prefer not to.


If you enjoy Regency Romance with Time Travel, take a look at The Price of Love.

Available at Amazon:   US and UK

This book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members.

Please take some time to visit my website, where you will find a gallery of my art and photos, contact details, and details about the many books I have written.

Katy Walter’s Website

Origin of Languages

Origin of Languages

Writing is actually a fascinating concept. I often ponder on how and why it evolved. What are the origins of writing? Why did we start? Was it to facilitate trading? Did authorship develop from that same source? Or was it an entirely different avenue? How did the two separate avenues of vocalization and sign language evolve? Did people listen to the trickles of a stream or the raging of a volcano and try to mimic them? In so doing, did they begin to build a language? Did signs, the separate consonants, and vowels evolve from the vocal sound of a whistling wind? A raging storm?

When I was writing my latest novel, it began as a historical suspense romance but changed to comedy which I’ve never aspired to write but did when faced with illness. The point is, in my story, an Immortal appears in the later chapters with his own language. As authors know full well, characters have a habit of just springing into a novel without prior planning or warning. Did the writer, true to their muse, not delete it? So I came to the point of this character, the immortal, who had his own language. Yes, he did have one, but how would it sound? How would I put it in writing in my novel?

This bought me to muse on our earliest ancestors and the origins of language. How would our ancestors have exchanged goods? Would it all be by action, not sounds? Taking it further, how would they vocalize the sound of the raging wind, the crackle of thunder, the howl of a wolf? Even more mysterious is how they would put it down in writing? Would they use signs that literally describe the wind? For example, if one looks at the letter ‘W,’ it gives the initial sound of the wailing of the wind. Now it’s the same interpretation in German – interesting. So in portraying the language of an ancestor, I imagined how they would vocalize the sound of space, nature, the elements, and animals. Although it was thought-provoking and made for exciting writing, I realized it may include signs and diagrams as part of the language. I realized I was endeavoring to introduce a new or different version of an ancient language. This was too complicated and far beyond the scope and length of my fictional novel. I would understand the worlds and composition because I’d made it up. Still, I couldn’t expect my reader to enjoy pages of signs, letters, and diagrams.

So I deleted hours of trying to dream up the origin and sounds of my fictitious ancestor.

Getting a Glimpse of the Origin of Writing

I appreciate that the system of writing varies; the Egyptian symbology is different from the Chinese, and so on. So I thought, maybe if I did a little research on each writing system, I might glimpse the source or origin of writing if not vocalization. Maybe with a fleeting thought might come some enlightenment? So for starters. The vowel ‘O’ simulates the howling of a wolf, as does the letter ‘w’ as it carries on the wind. So how did these vowels come about? How did our ancestors put them together?

There again, did singing come first? The high notes of the soprano emulating birds or raindrops or the base/baritone vocalizing the thunder of the storm. If I was just starting out in academia, I might have opted to research these fascinating concepts.

Another reason for the above is my interest in the history of the evolving presentations of the modern novel. I was fascinated with the presentation and language of the first novel in our literary history, entitled ‘Pamela, ‘created by Samuel Richardson, 1740. He used the epistolary style form, which was quite absorbing.

At university, amongst other subjects, I did study the etymology and formation of our modern language. I began my research from two primary roots of our Western language, the soft poetic lilt of Latin languages and the harsh pragmatism of the Teutonic. Of course, there are softer tones in the Germanic language, but that is another area of debate.  

We were instructed to write one short story using the Teutonic roots and then another from Latin. I had to work through dictionaries for nearly every word.  It was not tiring at all; it was fascinating.  It appears a crime novel benefits from the Teutonic – Germanic languages while a romance needs Latin.

I see I’ve written enough for now but will return next time with more ideas, and hopefully, you will have some as well, I would welcome your input and comments.


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved


They’re ‘Sweet & Sassy: A New Beginning’!

I invite you to while away some well-deserved hours reading, smiling, and enjoying a whole lotta lovin’. ‘Sweet & Sassy – A New Beginning’, is a wonderful romantic boxed set. Now available for download at Amazon.

Sweet & Sassy: A New Beginning is an eight book multi-author boxset written by New York Times, USA Today Bestselling, and Bestselling Authors.

Despite thwarting dogs and Mother Nature’s wrath, these couples fight to begin again and forge a new path. Sometimes their second chances arrive where they least expect them or even wave through a window. Whether best friends, co-workers, or strangers, these men and women struggle with roadblocks that pop up all around them.
Join us as these romances enlighten your reading time with miracles, poker games, hiding from the past, disabilities, political shenanigans, military tactics, and starting life over for a new lease on life.


Enjoy EIGHT tales of love and life’s roadblocks from this international slate of USA Today and NY Times Bestselling Authors.


I hope you are all keeping safe and supporting those in most need – my husband and I are currently isolating. Please enjoy my website. You will find information on my many books and even a gallery with photos and slideshows of my artwork. Love, Katy.

Katy Walter’s Website

Death Marks: Chapters 55, and 56

Death Marks: Chapters 55, and 56

Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.

Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 55

Jack looked over to the SWAT Team, ‘Briggs – metal detection plate.’

The tall helmeted officer came to the front of the arched wall, posing the detector over the area, covering it inch by inch. The silence was almost overpowering as they waited; even the dogs fell quiet except for a small whimper. The machine beeped; Brigg’s said softly, ‘Yeah, right there.’ He then pushed at the stone. The dogs backed off as the stone wall slid to one side.

Dove whispered, ‘A lift and a door – Christ Sir – we’ve found them.’

Redd pushed forward, ‘Well done, Briggs. Now….’

Jack walked over. ‘They’ve locked the lift down. Damn.’

Dove went over to the smaller door, pressing a steel button. It slid over to reveal a sheer glass front. ‘Boss, over here.’

Jack and Redd looked down on the scene as cries of terror reached them through the beating of drums. The effigy of the Wicker Man stood in the center of an immense cavern. Around it was individual wicker cages, each occupied with a single figure; they could see the cages rocking, hands stretching out through the wicker. Redd recognized the earl standing between two women in the loins of the huge Wicker man. Packed with people, the effigy swayed slightly from side to side.

Dove murmured, ‘They’re all going to burn – mass suicide, and they’re taking the victims with them.’

Jack whispered, ‘Fuck – we haven’t got much time – the damn thing’s ready to go.’

Dove said, ‘Boss, do want me to take out the earl? I can do it from here.’

‘No – if they haven’t seen the door slide open already, we’ve got about two minutes of surprise at the most.’

‘There’s a steel walkway around the rim top of the cave boss; looks quite sturdy.’

An officer murmured, ‘Christ; they’re all bloody naked.’

His companion said, ‘Some sick fucking orgy.’

Ignoring them, Redd looked over to Jack. ‘Rappel?’

‘Yeah, the best way – fast.’

‘Okay, go ahead.’

Jack signaled to the Swat team, ‘No time to use the steps, we’re gonna rappel down there. Get those people out of the bloody cages.’

Shrugging on harnesses, Jack, Dove, and the team ran onto the steel walkway. Anchoring their rappelling devices from the steel rims, swiftly checking their ropes were in the middle mark. Some of them simultaneously rappelled down the steep wall, rapping the ropes around their legs to stop the fall.

Redd, followed by Green, Connell, and the other officers, rushed down the steps taking them two at a time. A few of the officers jumped the last six feet – running to the cages and cries of the victims.

Tess trembling by the side of the earl, looked up to see officers in heavy SWAT uniforms rappelling down the walls. The earl, eyes squeezed tight, screaming demented prayers to the gods, had not seen them.

Tess prayed silently to any god listening, ‘Please – please – don’t let him open his eyes. She peered at Gemma, who nodded. Swiftly, they both grabbed him, shoving him to the Wicker floor.

Shouting, he struggled, ‘You fools, you stupid fools, you are going to die, don’t fight it. It’s going to happen.’

As the Ovates sprang to his aid, Gemma’s eyes fell on his sword, yes – oh yes. In a heartbeat, she snatched the sword from the scabbard as the Ovates helped the earl to his feet. She leaped, slicing the earl’s flesh open from his forehead to his feet. Swaying, he looked at her, astonishment widening his eyes. Snarling, Gemma raised the sword to run him through, only to be grabbed from behind. Sobbing, she fought, kicking out at the earl as he turned, wiping the blood dripping into his eyes and down his body to see officers running towards him.

Frenzied, he cried, ‘Kill them, kill them – light the fires – light the fires goddammit.’

Redd seeing the tapers leading from the cages to the Wicker effigy, screamed out, ‘Cut the tapers – cut the fucking tapers – faster – faster.’ To others, he cried, ‘Get them out of the Wicker Man – hurry – hurry.’

Elsewhere, he heard Jack and Dove screaming out his instructions.

Julia jumped on her father, scrabbling for the ignition box, his fingers trying to reach the switch that would ignite both the Wicker Man and the tapers to the cages. ‘Damn you – I won’t let you – you pig – you fucking pig.’ Beating him with her fists, she clenched her teeth, stabbing her fingers into the earl’s eyes, gouging, pressing him against the wicker wall. Screaming in agony, he staggered, throwing her off.

Officers tackled Ovates, lighting wickers stacks around the perimeter walls; two sprang alight, their flames leaping in moments, setting fire to a couple of the wicker cages. As Dove followed by more officers, Screams rent the air, stamped on the flames, dragging out the victims.

Seeing some of the Ovates leaving the Wicker Man to tackle the officers, Redd fought his way to Tess, he had to stop the earl – had to get Tess out of there. It would only take one stray spark for the whole lot to go up in flames. As he neared the steps, he saw her struggling with an Ovate forcibly trapping her in the effigy. Seeing him, she screamed out, ‘The earl – he’s got an ignition box – stop him – stop him.’

The earl blinded, his eyes seeping mucus and blood, dropped to his knees, his hands on the box, scrabbling for the switch. Leaping up the steps, Redd tackled him, throwing him bodily out of the effigy. With one blow from his fist, he knocked Tess’s captor to the floor and, seizing her, jumped from the Wicker Man.

As they rolled on the floor, Tess cried out, ‘Save her Redd, save Gemma.’

He looked up to see a young woman held down by two Ovates. Rage surged through him as he yelled, ‘Let her go.’ Running back, he scrambled up into the effigy. Fists swinging, he caught one with an uppercut to the chin, the man’s head snapped back, teeth crunching into his upper palate, blood spurting. Redd turned to see Gemma kick the other man’s feet from under him. As he went to rise, she grabbed his arm, pulling it up and back. Redd heard the snap as it dislocated. Jumping up, Redd snatched her up, leaping back down the floor.

Shouting to Tess, he cried, ‘Make for the stairs – go-go.’

He looked around; the earl was nowhere to be seen. Dove led some of the victims to the stairs while Jack and the other officers cuffed the Ovates. Where the fuck was he?’

Chapter 56

Leaning back on her elbows, Tess gazed at marshmallow clouds drifting over a cerulean sky. In the distance, a forest of silver birch and pine broke up the flat landscape. ‘This is such a lovely place; I didn’t know it existed.’

Reaching over the linen tablecloth, Redd picked up a slice of ham off the bone. ‘There are so many dotted around the Downs. The fields around Slindon woods are quite private; very few people come here. They stick mostly to the woods; you’ll find loads of walkers there, ideal for the dogs.’

Tess picked up a glass of wine. ‘It seems such a private place.’ Then, glancing over to the next field, she gasped, ‘Hey look – oh just look at that, Sweetpea’s jumping through the rapeseed. You can just see his ears and his tail.

Redd rose to his feet. ‘Get up, Tess – quick. You’ve gotta see this.’

She joined him as he pointed over to the dog. ‘See – he’s racing with the deer.’

Tess clasped his arm, ‘Oh my goodness – can you beat that. He’s keeping up, and he’s not attacking. He’s playing with them.’

Grinning, they both stood enjoying the sun on their backs as they watched the animals frolic through the gold flowers of the rapeseed. Entering the scene’s serenity, Redd thought it a far cry from the horror of Kingley Vale.

As if catching his thought, Tess said, ‘I used to love Kingley Vale, But I don’t think I could go there again too many memories.’

Redd nodded, taking her hand. ‘It will take a while, but there are many places like this, and we have lots of time to explore them.’

He clutched her to him, dipping his head to taste those plump lips, his tongue flicking through to her teeth, her mouth. Slowly, they sank to the blanket, her breath now quickening as his hand cupped a full breast. He felt her fingers under his sweatshirt tickle his nipples. Grunting slightly, his hand went to her bottom, massaging the toned cheek.

Laughing, she arched away. ‘Hey, hang on there, we’re in broad daylight, the walkers will see us, or their dogs will search us out.’

Taking a breath, he grinned, his voice thickening as he said, ‘Just for starters. We’ll have the main course later.’

Sitting up, she pulled at a blade of grass, tasting the sweetness of the stalk. ‘Talking of searching, I wonder where the earl is now?’

‘God knows, he and Titmouse must be a thousand miles from here. But, d’you know, I still wasn’t sure Tits was mixed up in it.’

Tess nodded. ‘He was further in the Wicker Man behind the earl. Honestly, he’s vile. All the time you were on the case, he was giving them all the information.’

‘At least Mainwaring wasn’t granted bail. He’s locked away until the trial. The jury will make short work of him.’

‘D’you think he’ll get life?

‘Oh yes, and the others.’

‘They damn well deserve it. I don’t believe in capital punishment – they hung so many innocent people, but in this instance – well—’

‘I’m with you there. I hope Mainwaring gets imprisonment without parole.’

‘What about Julia?’

‘She’s out on bail. She’s back at the mansion.’

‘Well, the girl was forced or coerced, as they say. I mean he father threatened her with the Blood Eagle if she didn’t help abduct Jeannette and Neil.’

‘I know, but she could have gone for help. It’s a sticky business.’

Tess took another sip of wine. ‘At least the Dowager is happy. She’s got her back. She does remember her, you know, and the earl. I’m glad you’ve told her he’s traveling abroad.’

‘Kindest thing we could do. I mean, each time they tell her what he did, she’ll get so upset, then she’ll forget, and they’ll have to tell her all over again – a recurring nightmare. I don’t think the relatives of the victims can ever come to terms with it.’

‘I know, but at least they can see justice being done. Some parents go a lifetime never knowing what happened to their missing children.’ Shaking her head, Tess said, ‘In this case, maybe that would be a blessing. These poor parents have to live with such terrible memories. God, it doesn’t bear thinking about.’

Seeing her face pale, the tears gathering, Redd took her in his arms. ‘Memories fade, sweetheart. Let’s hope we can catch the bastards. They snuck off as we fought to stop the effigy igniting. But, we found a secret passageway from the cavern leading underground to a whole system of tunnels. They go on for miles under the Downs. But, wherever they are, we’ll never stop searching.’

‘Well, the earl won’t be difficult to find with that cut Gemma gave him.’

Redd shook his head. ‘I don’t know – plastic surgery could take care of that. He touched his cheek, ‘Didn’t do me much good, but at least it’s fading.’

Tess leaned over, rolling her tongue lightly along the scar. ‘I think it makes you more attractive – my warrior hero. Anyway, it will fade even more, just like memories.’

His voice faltered for a moment as he thought of Esther – Harry. No, he was wrong; for him, the memories do not fade; sometimes, they become too vivid. Often, he thought he could hear their voices calling to him.

Stroking Tess’s cheek, he said, ‘So are you packed for the trip?’

‘Yes – I don’t know how long I’ll be away. Melissa is very ill, it’s only a matter of weeks. But, she’s so brave, even in the face of the last news, she says, she’ll live to be a hundred….’ She paused and looked at him. ‘I do believe in miracles, you know.’

He hugged her. ‘So do I. I found you.’


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 52, 53, and 54

Death Marks: Chapters 52, 53, and 54

Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.

Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 52

Redd paced the length of the yew tree grove. Tess had not made contact yet. Did they have sound jammers in the mansion? Maybe they’d blocked her? Talking into the tiny phone on his lapel, he called Amanda Green. ‘Hi, Green – any sign of Tess?’

‘Yes, boss, she’s in the drawing-room at the back of the mansion at the moment. All seems okay.’

‘Right, I haven’t heard from her.’

‘I will keep her under surveillance. Hang on, Sir – I think right now they’re making a move.’

‘Any communications from the other officers?

‘Tomkins has managed to find a cubby hole down in the tunnel. So he’ll be able to see them go to the church and back.’

‘Good. Call terminated.’

At that moment, his phone beeped. ‘Yes – Redd here.’

‘Sir, I have a call from Lugh Roberts… I am redirecting the call to you now.’

‘Inspector Redd?’

‘Yes, Lugh – how can I help you?’

‘Well, I don’t know if it means anything to you, but I’ve had some news through the grapevine. ‘

‘Yes?’

‘It seems that some of the neo-druids are starting their fires earlier. They forecast rain this evening. They all synchronize the time of the fires, so they all start at once. It gives more energy to the occasion. ‘

Redd gritted his teeth. ‘Fuck – doesn’t give us much time.’

‘Just a point, dear boy. The sacred hours are three, six, nine, and twelve. I think they may well go with three pm.’

‘Thanks, Lugh – sorry about the language – it’s one o’clock now, so it doesn’t give us much time.’

‘Don’t worry, only natural. I’ll phone if there’s anything drastic going on.’

‘Thanks, Lugh. Bye.’

Clicking off the phone, Redd spoke immediately into the lapel. ‘Green … we’ve got a problem – just had a call that the Solstice fire ritual may be early; three PM. It’s one PM now. Communicate this to the others. Any more movement?’

‘Boss, Bessie tells me the general public is only being admitted to three of the main rooms today. So our group is now in the library.’

Visualizing the plans, Redd said, ‘That means they’re on their way to the cellars which lead off the library. So get on it, Green.’

‘Yes, boss, PC Dickens is on the alert in the tunnel. I except they’re on their way to the church. We have an officer in the upper gallery of the church, Sir.’

‘Good work, Green.’

Tess followed the others down the steps to the cellars. Lotte clutched her hand, whispering, ‘Isn’t this exciting – this really is a mystery tour.’

The guide called up, ‘People be careful, keep your hands on the rail, we don’t want any accidents.’

Standing at the bottom of the steps, he waved people through to the main cellar. As the group assembled, chattering, some giggling, the drugs now working through their systems, the guide said, ‘These cellars hold a multitude of secrets. This was part of an escape route for priests. So many were persecuted in the Reformation – King Henry the Eighth period. We’ll now take you through the tunnel to the Church.’

Tess kept to the back, glancing over her shoulder – not a sign of a police officer. Then, reaching the Church, she heard Trewitt’s excited voice, booming over the babble, ‘My goodness – a veritable feast.’

Tess took the champagne from the waiter looking around the derelict church, smart in a starched shirt and black trousers. Tess held her glass attempting to smile, the blood thundering in her ears. Still no sign from Redd. Something was wrong – very wrong. Lotte grabbed her hand, almost dragging her to a pew. Clinking glasses, she cried, ‘Cheers – here’s to a great day.’

Tess clinked glasses, then as Lotte’s head turned, she tipped the contents under the pew.

The young police officer, his spotty face pale, crouched still and silent up on the gallery, unaware of a figure moving towards him. Then, in one stealthy move, the figure leapt, pulling the officer’s head back by his hair, the knife sliding across his throat. Silently, the figure crept away, leaving the officer prone on the floor, blood spreading on the wooden boards.

‘Come on, Tess, let’s get some of that scrumptious food.’

‘You go, Lotte. My stomach’s still bad.’ Then, holding up the empty champagne glass, she said, ‘This has helped, though.’

She watched Lotte join the others as she fingered a sausage roll. She wished she could warn her, get her away from here. Tess took deep breaths, fighting the fear threatening to overwhelm her. She mustn’t panic – not now. She just wished Redd or someone would contact her. The babble reached a crescendo; a girl with black shoulder-length straight hair sat jiggling the keys of the organ. A young man with small pebble glasses was in the pulpit giving a blasphemous speech. Others crowed around the altar, picking up oak leaves whilst others twirled the yew tree sticks. Still another couple now sat in a tight embrace, lips locked.

‘I think it is time now. Let’s take them through.’ The guide persuaded the young man to leave the pulpit and, taking his place, clapped his hands, ‘Okay folks, now we have another treat in store for you. Listen everyone – listen.’

The group quieted. ‘That’s right – now listen. It’s not only Rome with the catacombs – we’re going to take you to see some right here, in this very estate. The catacombs holding the mummified bodies of the Medbury ancestors, going back through the centuries.’ A dark-haired woman with very large breasts shrieked with delight, jumping up and down, ‘Catacombs – yes – catacombs.’ The others joined her, shrieking louder.

Tess knew they were in trouble; Redd was out of contact. Shafts of glass seemed to cut her stomach; she knew something terrible was happening. Glancing around, still seated in the pew, she drew the penknife from her pocket. Taking a deep breath, gritting her teeth, she jabbed it into her thumb. Pulling her hand from her pocket, she spread some blood on the seat. To her dismay, there was hardly any. She knew she’d been a coward; she had to slice her thumb deeper. Her head whirled as she put her hand back in her pocket, trying not to cry out or groan, the knife slicing through her flesh. Please, Sweetpea – find me – find me.

The guides and assistants guided the guests through an arched door in the sidewall of the church. Once through that door, she knew they were lost. Pretending to speak to Lotte, now walking glassy-eyed towards the door, she whispered, ‘Redd – can you hear me? It’s the side door in the church, the side door.’

Lotte turned her head, her voice slurring, ‘Door … door – yes.’

Smiling expansively, the guide shouted, ‘Take care now; we have lights, but the stones are slippery.’

The noise in the small corridor was tumultuous; some were now dancing along, some singing, whilst others made ghostly noises. Giggling, Lotte moved towards the entrance with an insane look in her eyes. Tess danced to the other side of Lotte, away from the guide, stooping slightly; her hand went out knee-high onto the wall, the blood mingling with the lichen.

Chapter 53

They’ll be coming for us soon.’ Julia raised herself on one elbow. ‘I’m sorry, Gemma – so sorry.’

Gemma shook her head. ‘You did all you—’

‘I would have taken your place if I could, but he’s my fucking father. I hate him – hate him.’

Gemma’s bones ached from the midnight ceremonies, a nightmare from which she’d thought she’d never recover. She wanted to die as they dragged her, spitting and screaming to the effigy. There in front of the huge grotesque form of The Wicker Man, she was forced across the altar, her limbs spread out on the stone slab. For an hour, the devils chanted, swaying to the beat of half a dozen drums, men and women dancing, gyrating falling to the floor, copulating. They were insane utterly depraved. When the chief Druid marched up to the dais, she saw the men rise to follow him. Her heart pounded as she screamed at him, her body writhing when he climbed onto the altar, his tattooed body slick with sweat.

Julia interrupted her thoughts. ‘One of the guards told me it was going to rain early today, so they’ve brought the ceremony forward.’

‘Oh dear God. Isn’t there—’

Two women entered the small cell, ‘Time ladies, come you’ll have to put these cloaks on.’

Her heart leaping into her throat, Gemma stood; she could take them both out, but what was the use? Beyond the cell was a huge cavern, guards everywhere. Clad in a black hooded cloak, she followed Julia down a narrow corridor to large doors over six feet high. The doors opened onto a lift and a steel walkway high above the cavern with steps down. The lift had a glass wall that gave them a view of the cavern. People were putting the last-minute touches on the Wicker Man. Around it, Ovates were busy placing cages in a circle.

As the lift doors opened, Gemma said, ‘What are they for?’

Julia frowned. ‘They’ve designed individual wicker cages for each of the guests. Each one will be strapped in. Oil soaked tapers run from The Wicker Man to each of the cages, as it catches light, so will the cages.’ She laughed dryly. ‘A carousel of fire.

Gemma shivered as she followed the women to the Wicker Man. A guard, naked, except for a sword, motioned for her to climb the central steps into the body of the effigy.

Julia followed, her face pale; as the daughter of the Arch Druid, she would die in state. She looked at Gemma’s eyes, wild with terror. ‘Don’t give them the satisfaction; they thrive on fear.’

At those words, the earl appeared, naked except for a lustrous blue velvet robe; beside him, Titmouse stroked a stray lock of dirty blond hair across his bald pate.

The earl stretched a hand out to stroke Julia’s hair, the titian lights glowing. ‘You are honored; you will die with me; you will attain a high place in the other world. The Gods will look kindly upon you.’

‘Oh fuck off.’ Julia tried to kick him.

The earl smiled, ‘You will be able to choose your next reincarnation, such is the honor bestowed upon you.’

Julia snarled, ‘Shut the fuck up.

~

Tess followed the others into a stone corridor, listening to the running commentary from the guide, the assistants waving them through. ‘We’re now coming to the mausoleum.’

Tess jabbed the knife into her finger, the thumb still throbbing from the other cuts. Squeezing it lightly, she touched the door as they entered a small, dank, dark room, the only light coming from a tiny window of stained glass. Coffins lay on shelves reaching almost to the moss-covered ceiling; even the drugged guests became silent, cognizant they were in direct contact with the dead.

The guide’s voice boomed over the crowd, ‘Now we’re entering the British version of the catacombs.’

A woman squealed as they went deeper underground, ‘Oh my God, these aren’t in coffins, look, there’s a mummy.’

Tess peered at the sides of the deep tunnel, her heart almost leaping into her throat, as she saw the body of a small child, shreds of skin clinging to a small skeletal face. The hair was a dry mass of yellow curls flowing down a mildewed grey silk dress.

More of the group cried out in horror, others laughing hysterically as they passed more bodies, brittle old men, other bodies wrapped in decaying cloth. Tess wondered how they would have reacted without the drugs; this was one morbid tour. Slipping to the back of the throng, her finger dripping blood, she forced herself to stroke the bony fingers of what once was an elderly matron. The body clutched a moldering bible, the skeletal grin revealing blackened teeth, a mop lace cap tattered and musty, the skin scabrous. She nearly retched as the smell of old roses wafted up, covering a deeper, darker smell of decay. God, she was mingling her blood with the dead.

Up ahead, the catacombs ended in a stone wall. The guide stepped into a circular space. ‘Gather round people, come along now.’ As the guests assembled around him, he grinned, lifting his hand. ‘Now, ladies and gentlemen, for the coup d’état, this will amaze you. Let me introduce you to the eighth wonder of the world – a subterranean cavern. You are now about to witness an ancient ceremony.

Grinning, his voice trailed off as he pulled a lever to one side of an arched stone wall. People up ahead gasped as the wall slid sideways to reveal a lift door of gleaming glass with a smaller glass door to one side.

The young man with the bow tie cried, ‘Look at that – a bloody great big cave, underground – never heard about it.’

A coarse gravel voice shouted, ‘Hey, what’s that down there?’

‘It’s a bloody big wooden statue,’ a woman shrilled, stretching her dark head forward.

The guide corrected her, ‘It’s the Wicker Man, ma’am.’

Tess dug the knife deep into her finger as she saw Lotte look around, waving her forward. She shook her head; she was determined to stay at the back. It was her last chance to leave something for Sweetpea.

‘Now those of you who would like to go down in the lift, please step forward; we only have room for fifteen of you; the others can take the steps.’

‘So come in – come in.’ The guide led the others into the lift with two assistants following. Tess decided to take the steps, but she had to leave more blood at the arch; it was perhaps the only sign that she had gone through this way. An assistant smiled as she approached.

Tess suddenly winced. ‘Oh, my side – I’ve got a stitch.’ Holding a hand to her waist, she stumbled forward, grasping the arch with her right hand.

The young woman frowned in concern. ‘Just take it easy. I think you’d better take the lift, don’t you?’

‘It’s gone now, just missed it.’

‘We can wait for it to come up again.’

‘No – no – it’s easing now.’ Tess tried to smile. ‘Phew, that was awful. I think I twisted my side further back there, stumbled on some stones.’

‘Okay then, look, I’ll walk before you, just in case you fall.’

Tess felt as if a scalpel picked at her brain; at least the woman hadn’t sussed anything. Then she looked at the Wicker Man; it must be over twenty feet high. Her fears were genuine; sacrifice by burning. No one would find the bodies here. Where was Redd? It had all gone terribly wrong. Would he even think of a subterranean cavern this huge?

Trewitt’s voice boomed, ‘What a sight. Hey, are those people naked? Now, who would have expected that?’ High on the drugs, he caught hold of Sandy as he did a little jig.

A thin, lanky man in stonewashed jeans stroked a dreadlock. ‘Why is everyone naked?’

His companion, a young woman with waist-length sandy tresses and a long printed skirt, said, ‘All part of the show.’

Yeah – nature man – nature. I wonder if we’re supposed to get our kit off.’ Trewitt laughed, ‘Too true young man.’ Without hesitation, he peeled off his tweed jacket. Sandy watched simpering, a hand over her mouth, as he shucked off his trousers, then his white y-fronts.

A couple of the other guests followed suit, one, the woman with the ample breasts stripping to her thong. ‘I ain’t taking that off.’

The guide seeing them divest themselves of their clothes, encouraged the others to follow. ‘Come on, folks, let’s join in the party. We’re now ancient Britons, so let’s dress like them, or should I say undress.’

Tess looked up to the Wicker Man to see two women naked with tattooed bodies standing in the loins of the effigy. Would the guests realize what was happening? Could they save themselves? As she looked at the people working on the cages, she noticed they wore swords hanging from leather belts. No chance, they were prepared. Redd, where are you?

Chapter 54

Sir, I couldn’t get any reply from the PC in the Church, so I got a couple of uniforms to climb up to the windows. It’s empty; they’ve disappeared. I’ve got officers in the tunnel, but no sign of them.’

‘Fuck – fuck – get some more officers in there – just bust in – call terminated.’

Racing now to the Church, he heard Green’s voice, urgent, ‘Officer down boss, up in the gallery, throat cut. I’m calling the ambulance.’

‘Okay, I’m contacting the SWAT Team and K9 Unit. I’m on my way.’

He spoke into his lapel, ‘Jack-Jack – come in – come in now.’

‘Okay, Dan – Jack here. What’s up?’

‘Officer down at the church – bastards cut his fucking throat. The guests have disappeared. We need the SWAT Team.’

‘Okay – we’re on our way.’

‘Get the bloody dogs in.’

‘Already contacting K9 – be with you in a couple of minutes

‘Make sure Tess’s dog’s with them.’

‘Come on, Dan – he’s neurotic – he’ll fuck it up.’

‘Jack, he tracks her blood for Christ’s sake.’

‘I know – I know – okay, I’m on it.’

Redd touched the bulge of the Glock in his jacket; he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. People scattered as he ran, fuck – fuck – shit – fuck – fucking fuck. He shouldn’t have let her do it. He saw her face, her eyes, her lips, shit – he’d bloody kill them – kill them.

As he raced into the church, Green called to him from the gallery. ‘Up here, boss.’ Redd bounded up the stairs, stopping short as he nearly stepped in bright blood pooling around the young officer’s head. Fuck – poor bugger – he was only a kid – only a fucking kid. They’ve jammed the wires. We’ve lost Tess.’ He pulled the Glock out, espying the uniforms searching the gallery – bugger all. Taking the steps two at a time, he reached the stone floor as Jack burst through the door. ‘Hey, man, put this on.’

Jack threw him a Kevlar vest with neck, arms, and groin reinforcement. Gritting his teeth, hating every moment that kept him from the chase, Redd rammed the thing on.

Jack said, ‘And take this,’ throwing him a Heckler & Koch MP5.

Redd hefted the assault rifle, feeling the weight before strapping it to his shoulder. He also had the Glock; he could shoot on the run. Hearing the barking of the K9 Unit, he stopped. His face brightened just for a moment – Sweetpea. The mutt irritated him at first, all that licking and slobbering, but now, he felt a rush of warmth – he’d find her scent.

As he gathered the handlers and dogs around him, Sweetpea sat down on his haunches and howled. The handler shook him gently, but Sweetpea howled even louder, leaping and gnashing at the lead.

Redd muttered, ‘Okay; you’ve given them Gemma’s clothes?’

‘Yes, Sir – ready to go on your command.’

‘Go ahead.’

Clumping up to him in her hardened combat boots, Dove looked particularly ferocious in her bulky SWAT gear. ‘Any ideas, Sir?’

‘Nah, it’s up to the dogs now. This place is riddled with secret doors, tunnels, and cellars. God knows where they’ve gone.’

Dove nodded. ‘Look at the dogs; they’re everywhere.’

‘Yeah, I expect Tess’s been in few places here.’

Standing with her and Jack, he watched as the dogs chased around the church, sniffing pews, the floor, the altar. To his amazement, Sweetpea shot off to a door in the far side of the church, standing on his hind legs; he scratched at the latch, then backed off and leaped, throwing his total weight against the wood. Christ, the dog could batter it down. He was lethal. A few dogs now joined him but sat quietly, paws lifted towards the door.

The handlers opened the door for the canines, who now rushed through in a pack, barking and whining down a stone corridor, with Redd and the teams following.

Redd muttered, ‘This leads to the mausoleum.’

Dove running steadily beside him, her boots thumping on the stone floor, said, ‘But it’s too small – wouldn’t hold twenty people and a bonfire.’

The handlers raced to the dogs, sniffing around the edges of the door to the mausoleum. Already feeling the pinching fingers of claustrophobia creep over him, Redd searched desperately for signs of blood. He mustn’t panic – not now. Christ – shit. He remembered Tess’s words, to breathe slowly and deeply. It was hard; the dogs were frantic, their heads dipping and rising as they sniffed frantically. He dived into his pocket for the diazepam, just two, that would stave off a panic attack. As the door opened, snapping and growling, Sweetpea, caught in the middle of the pack, fought to get to the front place, definitely an alpha male.

Crowding into the small burial chamber, they shone torches on the dust-ridden coffins – nothing. Sweetpea shrieked, gulping air, as he pawed at the exit door almost as tall as the handler. As the door opened, he raced with the pack down the steeply sloping tunnel.

Redd caught his breath; Tess had left blood for them to follow. He heard a K9 officer shout, ‘Bodies – loads of bodies down here.’

His heart thundered as he looked up to see the ceiling sinking down, the walls closing in on him. Stifled, he gritted his teeth; the diazepam would kick in soon. With his heart in his mouth, he ran with Jack to see mummified remains of bodies on shelves hewn from the rock.

Dove gasped, ‘It’s like catacombs – Christ, it’s eerie.’

Redd saw Sweetpea sniffing the bony fingers of a skeletal elderly woman in a mildewed fob cap, her clothes moldering. He went over to see blood darkening the bones. For once, Sweetpea was not licking, head bowed, his nostrils sensitively twitching; he examined the bones once more, gulping air before racing on ahead.

Catching up with Jack, he saw the K9 handlers facing a stone wall. A tall officer traced the wall with his hands, feeling for edges. ‘Bugger it Guv. Dead end.’

Redd went over to see the dogs sniffing eagerly at the rough stone. Sweetpea went on his hind legs, frantically scratching at the stone. An Alsatian growled his nose flat onto the wall at a stack of stones.

Jack went over the arch, stone by stone. ‘Got to be here somewhere Redd, a false wall – got to be.’

A handler reached in among the wet noses and gnashing teeth of the dogs. ‘There must be a pressure point somewhere here.’


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



Other Chapters

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Available Chapters!

Death Marks: Chapters 49, 50, and 51

Death Marks: Chapters 49, 50, and 51

Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.

Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Death Marks

Chapter 49

Swiftly, they entered the tunnel, wired for lights. Redd looked up at the slightly domed ceiling a foot above them. ‘They’ve obviously strengthened the roof, and the walls are shored up – must have used these a lot.’

Tess nodded. ‘But for what?’

Jack said, ‘Away from prying eyes – especially if they’re conducting pagan orgies.’

Eagerly, Sweetpea ran, stopping only to whine in places, his nose almost boring into the dirt wall, until he reached the door, his paws scrabbling on the latch.

Tess turned to Redd. ‘Seems she came this way.’

Immediately, he ran forward to open the door. The dog bounded up the steps into a vestry. Once again, Jack gave Sweetpea the clothes to sniff. Then, on Tess’s, command, the dog loped, nose to the ground, along a narrow corridor that led into the Church. Running to an altar atop a stone bench, the dog growled, sniffing oak and yew leaves strewn across the marble slab. Again, Sweetpea sat, raising his paw, panting, his long tongue hanging out from the side of lethal-looking jaws.

Tess said, ‘Someone or something was on the altar. It doesn’t look good, does it?’

Redd shook his head; striding to the altar, he peered at the leaves. ‘No signs of blood, but I daren’t touch anything – could be traces of DNA or something here.’

Tess almost whispered, ‘Oh dear God, they didn’t—’

‘It’s not the summer solstice yet. Maybe they carried out some kind of ritual.’

‘Bastards.’

Jack said, ‘What about the trestle tables then? Looks like they’ve been laid for a banquet.’

Nodding, Redd walked over. ‘Linen clothes, candelabra – maybe preparing for the Mystery Tour?’

Tess murmured, ‘It’s a thought – if Gemma was supposed to be going on it, plus the other victims were from the labs; it’s a possibility.’

‘Maybe they’ll just show them around the mansion and then make their way over here for a buffet. It certainly is an ancient church; it would be interesting.’

Frowning Redd said, ‘One thing is for sure; Gemma was here. I’ve got a good mind to get the Forensic team out now. However, we’ve just not got enough to go on.’

Tess said, ‘There’s Sweetpea’s tracking, and the dowager does give quite an uncanny description of the M.O.’

Jack muttered, ‘She has dementia, Tess – not even circumstantial evidence. As for Sweetpea, we might believe in his tracking skills, but he is not a trained police dog. All it’s done is to give us some leads. However, we do have Sweetpea reacting to Gemma’s clothes. Again, he’s not police trained, but I think it’s enough now to persuade Bill.’

Tess narrowed her eyes as she picked up a twig of yew. ‘Maybe they will bring the guests here and then take them elsewhere – but where? Maybe there are other cellars or caves.’

‘If it’s going to be a human sacrifice, the earl and his cohorts are not going to build a Wicker Man in the grounds or anywhere else in the open, for that matter. But, unfortunately, Lugh, the Arch Druid of my Grove, is building a large one in the grounds of his old mansion, but he hasn’t got anything to hide.’

Shadows gathered in the corners of the old church as twilight deepened. Jack got the plans out of his briefcase, laying them on the trestle table. ‘Let’s have a look.’

Redd watched as Jack traced the tunnel. ‘Nope – there’s nothing else on here. But I can’t get the Dowager’s words out of my head; she rambled on about the pit, and the Devil living under the mansion, that she could hear him breathing – devil’s music.’

Tess said, ‘There’re only the two cellars, and they’re not very big – cluttered as well. But she is confused – demented.’

Jack shrugged. ‘Maybe, but she can be very clear – coherent. I mean, she even remembered The earl’s friend – the coaches.’

‘Yes, it’s a past memory. People with Alzheimers do remember the past vividly; in fact, as the disease progresses, they move more and more into the past. It’s the present that’s the trouble; they cannot retain anything for more than five minutes, sometimes even less. So this must have been going on for quite a while.’

Redd scratched his chin, ‘So where in hell is she talking about?’

‘So far, we’ve only found the cellars – they’re far too small and full of wine or clutter. They know we’re on to them, so no way can they pull it off in the open air.’

Tess walked to the first pew and sat down. ‘Like I said earlier, the druids packed the Wicker Man with humans and animals. It was so important, Dan.’

‘Yeah, but twenty?’

‘The Aztecs slaughtered thousands. These perps are fanatics; they’ve proven that with the dismemberment and decapitation of the victims. Maybe this is their grand finale – to shock the world. The rites are sacrosanct.’

Jack came back to the altar. ‘What say we put someone on the tour? They could wear a tracking device and carry a mobile; we could track by a digital device or triangulation.’

Redd nodded. ‘Good idea, trouble is the Earl will know us, as will Mainwaring or Titmouse, that’s if they’re in on it.’

Tess put down the twig on the altar. ‘I could do it.’

‘No, Tess – too dangerous. I couldn’t allow it.’

Brushing a lock of ebony hair off her brow, she said, ‘Come on, I’ll be quite safe, I mean if I have the tracking gear on.’

Jack raised his eyebrows. ‘What about Dove? She can take care of herself.’

Redd shook his head. ‘Nah – they know her – they’ve seen Tess with me at the crime scene, but I don’t think it was long enough to take precedent. I hesitate—’

‘Dan, there are twenty people’s lives at stake here. You will have people in the grounds, the cellars, and the church. What can go wrong?’

‘The fucking tunnel – that’s what could go wrong.’

‘The largest spaces for a Wicker Man are in the cellars, the tunnels are far too confined, but they won’t use the cellars – they’re too small, and we’ve been there.’

‘Yeah, but there could be somewhere we just haven’t discovered yet. Fuck, we need more time.’

Jack sat down on the pew, ‘How about DC Green? She’s good.’

‘Titmouse knows her, Jack. If they see her, they’ll call the fucking thing off.’

Sighing, Tess folded her arms across her chest. ‘Look, there’s no other way. At least I’ll be alert to anything going on. As you say, I’ll have the tracking devices and mobile. There’s only a tunnel, and you could be down there in a shot.’

Jack got up from the pew, ‘Hang on a minute, this will not work, he might remember you. Police have keen eyes – training.’

‘I don’t think Titmouse saw me, and if he did it would only have been for a second or two – he wouldn’t remember me Jack. So look, I’ll wear a hat, better still I’ll wear a wig – change my make-up. I’ve actually got some blue contact lenses. I use them for clubbing – not that I do that very much now.’

Redd grinned, ‘Great – blues eyes – blond – sounds great.’ Then the thought clutched at his heart – Esther – blonde hair drifting in the breeze. Taking a breath, he said, ‘You’ll be wearing the latest tracking devices. Make sure you don’t drink or eat anything there on the day; it could be drugged.’

Tess nodded, excitement in her eyes, as she grinned. ‘Understood. So let’s do it.’

Redd knitted his brows. ‘First thing though, is a team meeting. And I’ll have to arrange for SWAT that’s if Maddeley is agreeable.’

Jack put his hand on his shoulder. ‘He will be – I’ll be with you – we’ll talk him around. Anyway, the team and SWAT will be invisible until they’re needed.’

Chapter 50

Redd checked over his files as he rushed to the Incident Room. The night before, he’d insisted on driving Tess back himself. But, even now, he was worried sick about letting her do it. ‘You know I don’t think you should do this, hell if anything happened to you…’

As she unlocked the door, he grabbed her, holding her close. ‘If those bastards lay one finger on you, I’ll be tearing off heads.’

‘Well, before you do that, who’s going to come over and fix me up for Sunday?

‘Bessie Owen. She’s very amenable and very sharp. So just go with what she says, okay. She’ll be fixing a digital device in the heel of your shoe and an earring.’

‘Sounds painless. ‘She turned to him, cupping his face in her two hands, raising her lips to his, she kissed him gently. Responding, he crushed her to him, his tongue flicking through, tasting her sweetness.

***

The odours from the incident Room washed over him, stale hot dogs, pizzas, cold coffee, cigarette breath, and unwashed clothes. Voices buzzed, officers sprawled on chairs or lolling against tables, as he moved to the whiteboards.

Redd looked up at the fresh faces of the victims, smiling eyes lit with the glow of youth. Beside them were photos of the crime scenes, the vics’ flesh now grey, arms and limbs dismembered, torsos mutilated, a couple headless. He looked over to see Dove writing on the other board, making a list of items to be discussed.

Grabbing his stick from the rack, he said, Thanks. Let’s get started.’

Dove took a seat in the front row with Jack close beside her.

‘Okay, folks, I know it’s late, and I’ve got some of you from your beds, but we have a couple of leads.’ He paused as he looked at the officers, faces gouged with fatigue, skin sallow, eyes flat.

A voice graveled with a lifetime of cigarettes growled, ‘No sweat Guv, we’ve gotta get these fuckers.’

Hugh Price, the office manager, coughed, shocks of grey hair uncombed. ‘Yeah, bust their fucking balls.’

‘That’s the spirit. We only have one day before the Summer Solstice. As you are aware, everything points to the Earl of Medbury as the leader of this Druid group of maniacs. All the victims, including the latest, Gemma Rodenbury, are from the research labs. We know the rest of the research workers are being treated to a Mystery Tour by an anonymous donor.’

‘Sir, why don’t you cancel the tour? Makes sense.’

‘Can’t be done, Williams; we only have our suspicions. We have no evidence to the contrary. But, anyway, it will give us an opportunity – give them a chance to hang themselves.’

His craggy brow, even more, furrowed, he said, ‘can’t you warn the researchers?’

‘No – we’d be had up in court for slander.’

But, first of all, everyone, you talk to no one outside of the team. It’s sensitive – we have reason to believe we have a couple of rogue cops – high up. We’re a close team, and we’ve been through some complex cases together, so you’ll understand until we know more, I can’t discuss it. So let’s get on. I hope you’ve all got your notes, reports, and files. We need to tie this case up. Now Bessie – what’ve you got?’

Bessie pulled the top straight over her stomach. ‘As I said, Sir, the mystery tour was paid for in cash. No receipts – no records.’

‘Details of the coach company?’

Rifling through her report, Bessie said, ‘Private company, been going some years now – got a place on the Trading Estate – hangars housing lorries and coaches – two managers, five office staff and fourteen workers. Upfront firm, as far as I can make out, Sir. The owner, Terence Sparkes, belongs to the Masons – goes to lots of civil functions. Quite high up in social circles.’

‘So, did you find any connections to the Earl of Medbury?’

‘Yes, Sir, Sparkes and the Earl attend the same functions at times. Sparkes also goes for dinner at the mansion about twice a week, as does Chief Superintendent Titmouse. However, he always goes through the back of the estate and across the grounds to the kitchen. This last week though, they’ve been there nearly every day at one time or another. On Thursday, Sparkes stayed for the afternoon and evening – and Titmouse turned up for the evening; they both left about two am. Sparkes’s was waiting – took them both. They were quite drunk or high on drugs too.’

‘Great work Bessie.’

Turning to her partner, he said, ‘McConnell – you also took up the trail of the drugs.’

The detective brushed a hand through his mop of unruly ginger hair, ‘We only got the derelict cottage Sir, but nothing else. We got a constable in plain clothes there every day, but nothing has been dropped there.’

‘Now I’d just like to say here, the Littlehampton team have been investigating hundreds of pharmacists literally – so far nothing. They thought they had a lead with someone at Brighton University, but it didn’t lead anywhere. Now the Bognor Regis team has a surgeon under surveillance, but he has not done anything for us to pick him up. One hopeful sign is he too visits the mansion.’

‘Okay – Green – Crosby – anything on the Earl?

Amanda Green straightened up. ‘Err – no Sir, he hasn’t left the mansion for a couple of days.

‘Really? We were there yesterday – talked with the Dowager, no sign of him.’

‘Well, I picked an inconspicuous spot by the front gates, Sir, been sitting there for hours, no movement. He hasn’t left the grounds unless there’s a secret entrance.’

‘Okay, so that confirms he was there all the time we were searching the cellars and the grounds – sly fucker must have been watching us.’

He looked over to Papworth, who sat puppy-eyed admiring Amanda. ‘Papworth – hey – Papworth, get your dick back in your pants.’

The officers hooted or snickered as a startled Papworth bolted up straight. ‘Sir?’

Redd let them laugh; it lightened the mood in what was a dark, gut-wrenching case. ‘Come on, Papworth – I’m sure Green will speak to you later, won’t you Green?’

Amanda snorted, her lips pursed, ‘Hell will freeze over first.’

‘So Papworth, anything more from Forensics?’

‘Nothing Sir, not even a fibre or DNA to go on. They did think they’d get something from Delle Woodhouse, but the rapist was a non-secretor. The bones, as you know, are hundreds of years old, all Caucasian. An experienced surgeon made those cuts. Apart from that, Sir, nothing.’

‘Okay – now Williams. Anything on HOLMES? Similar crimes or anything popping out?’

‘Nothing Sir, only the one at Avebury, I’ve been in touch with DCI Babbings, West Yorkshire Police, but he said that there had not been another crime. However, they are keeping an eye out at the neo-druid’s festivals tomorrow.’

‘Good – okay. So, here’s the Agenda for Sunday. First, the officers we suspect may be present throughout the visit of the Mystery Tour. As it is an open day at the mansion, there will be members of the public there as well. You will mingle with them. We have our symbolist taking part on the mystery tour, she’ll be wearing a blond wig, long hair, so you won’t miss her. Amanda, once the coach arrives on the grounds, I want you to shadow her and keep your distance. Don’t make it obvious that you’re guarding her – you’ll be in radio contact with her. Mack, I want you to keep an eye on the back entrance to the estate. Have your walkie-talkie on at all times.’

Turning back to the list, Redd tapped at the next item. ‘We suspect the Tour guests are to be sacrificed to the Druid Gods Sunday evening. We still do not know where they plan to do this. That’s why Dr. Davies is going to be part of the Mystery Tour.’

‘Now DCI Cummings is bringing a SWAT team together. Dove, you will assist him. The mansion opens at ten a.m; for public visitors. The office manager of the Research labs informs me the mystery coach will arrive at the Hospital at ten-thirty AM.’

Chapter 51

Tess was accepted readily on the coach by a charming older man dressed in a dated tweed suit with a fob chain; all that was missing were knickerbockers. Affecting Dickensian speech, he greeted her effusively, professing his concern for the missing woman. Then, turning, he introduced a staid woman in her early sixties with a brutally short haircut. From Redd’s description, she immediately recognized them as Mr. Trewitt and Miss Sandy Stanton.

A pleasant young woman wearing huge tortoise-shell glasses and a mop of bottle red hair waved for her to come and sit by her. Grinning, she held out a hand. ‘Lotte Mansley, a great day for a tour. The weather forecast says it’ll hit 80 degrees today?’ For the rest of the tour, she talked non-stop, sharing the latest hot gossip in the labs.

Alighting from the coach, Tess glanced around, looking for any familiar faces. To her relief, she saw Redd talking to a group of people by the lake. Due most probably to the weather, the mansion seemed particularly popular today, perfect for outings and picnics. People bagged spaces on the lawns, spreading out blankets and foldaway chairs.

Entering the mansion, Lotte linked arms with Tess as a liveried servant waved them to a muted glass door of a private function room. ‘This way, ladies and gentlemen.’ At the entrance, waitresses in frilled white aprons over black dresses, replete with broderie anglaise caps, waited to escort them to the tables.

Tess and Lotte were led to a charming table, set with crisp white linen tablecloths and silver service; the crockery of finely decorated porcelain. The finishing touch was the centrepiece, a circlet of fresh rosebuds in a silver and crystal vase. Tess heard the loquacious tones of Mr. Trewitt as he sat on the next table, ‘How perfectly delightful. This is going to be a grand tour, I’m sure.’ Beaming, he shook out his linen napkin, spreading it across his lap.

On serving the silver teapots and milk jugs, the waitresses deposited a bowl of sugar. Next, to Lotte’s delight, came an array of sweet and savoury canapés. She was completely drawn to the cupcakes. ‘Oh my, now those are my favourites.’ Lifting the teapot, she said, ‘I’ll pour, shall I?’

Tess nodded slightly, heeding Redd’s warning; she bit her lip; how was she supposed to refuse everything? Then, as Lotte filled the teacup, she put out her hand, ‘Look, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m allergic to tea or coffee.’

‘Oh, ask for a cold drink.’

‘No – no – I honestly couldn’t. I didn’t want to spoil it for you, but I was so sick this morning. So I’ve brought some bottled water with me.’

‘Oh poor you, never mind, more for me.’ Grinning, Lotte took two cupcakes, one covered in whirls of whipped buttercream sprinkled with silver balls, the other a deep rich chocolate.’

As a deep rich voice said, Tess jumped, ‘My dear young lady – I couldn’t help but overhear. Shall I ring for you to have some lemon or water? That might help you with the sickness. Lemon always does the trick for me.’

Tess shook her head, ‘That’s very sweet of you, Mr…?’

‘Trewitt at your service. Always a delight to help a pretty lady.’

Thank you, Mr. Trewitt, but honestly, I’ll stick with the water – thank you.’

Nodding, Trewitt went back to his savouries, piled high on his dainty plate.

Feeling perturbed, Tess hoped she hadn’t drawn attention to herself. Noticing a couple of the maids watching the tables, their hands folded across their aprons, Tess engaged an ecstatic Lotte in conversation. ‘Is it your first time here?’

Wiping some cream off her lip, Lotte grinned. ‘Oh no, my parents used to bring me here when I was little, great for picnics and things. We used to spend the whole day here. Never saw the Earl or the Countess, though. To me, it was a castle; I used to have childish dreams about meeting them, and they’d realize I was their long-lost daughter – the lost princess, that sort of thing.’

Tess managed to smile. ‘Little girl’s dreams.’

Lotte picked up her cup of tea, slurping some of it, the rest dribbling down her chin. ‘Oops, sorry – messy me.’ Grinning, she snatched up her napkin, wiping her mouth, the lipstick bright on the cloth. ‘Oh dear, I’ve dirtied the napkin. I’ll hide it.’ Laughing, she pushed it down her front, the top now bulging.

Frowning, Tess tried not to take any notice. She was acting a little weird, but then she did not really know the girl. Then, to her amazement, Lotte stuck her fingers into another cupcake, licking the cream off her fingers waving it towards Tess; she said, ‘Want some? Oh no, you feel sick, don’t you? Okay, I guess I’ll take these home with me.’ Picking up the plate, she opened her bag, squashing the cakes inside.

Tess felt her face flush, her heart beating a tattoo. God, it was happening; the drugs were taking over – so soon? She looked over to the following table to see Trewitt tearing up the savoury canapés stuffing them into his mouth, whilst Sandy poured tea into an overflowing cup. The laughter in the room heightened, the guests’ voices becoming louder. She knew she had to look a part of it, so she began to grin broadly, raising her voice to Lotte.

At that point, a man entered his suit immaculate as he clapped his hands to gain attention. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I see you enjoyed your tea. Now we shall begin the tour. First, let me introduce myself; you can call me John.’ Two men in dark suits stepped forward, along with three women in tailored jackets and skirts. These are my assistants who will help you on the tour.’ The guests clapped, hooting and shouting, whilst one elderly woman cried out, trails of grey hair dropping down over her face, ‘Where are we going?’

Tess got up with Lotte, hanging onto her arm swaying slightly. She needed to get the message over to Redd. All she had to do was speak the code word to let him know things were happening – the word ‘bananas’ was easy to put into a conversation. She leaned over to Lotte. ‘Enclosed rooms send me bananas; I hope we can get a bit of space.’

Lotte frowned. ‘My mum suffers from claustrophobia, but she was alright here; the rooms are so big.’

Tess nodded. ‘I think it’s everyone crowding around me.’

She waited for Redd’s voice to come through, but there was nothing. Perhaps he’d switched it off or something. They were ushered through into another opulent and large room, with Aubusson carpets scattered across an oak floor and more scattered chairs and settees. Magnificent dressers lined one wall; the shelves filled with crystal and precious ornaments. Along the opposite side were glass-encased bookshelves, the gilt on the ancient books glittering dimly.

Standing in the middle of the room, John raised his arms. ‘Attention, everybody. This is one of the withdrawing rooms; the family and guests would adjourn here for after-dinner drinks. The men, of course, would still be at their brandy and cigars, after which they would join the ladies. Now we would like to take you through to the banqueting hall and then onto the church, where we have a great surprise.’

The crowd clapped excitedly, jostling each other, spirits raised abnormally. Tess felt anxiety churn like sand in her stomach. Why wasn’t Redd answering?


Copyright.

Copyright © Katy Walters

All rights reserved



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Special Agent Makayla

Mimi Barbour has released the 11th novel in her exciting Special Agent Series: Special Agent Makayla. Available now on Amazon in both digital and paperback formats, these books are always thrilling reads.

A while ago, I posted an informative yet light-hearted ‘doggy’ interview with Mimi Barbour. Please visit the Mimi Barbour Video Interview if you are interested. Love, Katy.


Makayla hears the cries of children in trouble.

Special Agent Makayla has a gift. In her mind, she doesn’t have special powers. It is just fallout from the days when she was blind… before the operation that restored her sight. She learned to use her other senses, rely on her instincts, and listen intensely. Except her uncanny ability is beyond this.
Working with the Special Victims Unit, Makayla takes on all the cases of vanished children where the usual processes have failed. Sickened by many of her assignments, she finds joy when children are discovered and set free. Her biggest concern … they just keep on disappearing.


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Death Marks: Chapters 46, 47, and 48

Death Marks: Chapters 46, 47, and 48

Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.

Please enjoy another two chapters of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post 3 chapters every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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Death Marks

Chapter 46

Adakan waved a hand at the cavernous space. ‘The DCC and Inspector Redd are suspicious, but I don’t think they have a clue as to our true venue.’ Looking piercingly at Ondujor, he added, ‘Nothing must go wrong now.’

Smoothing a lock of dirty blond hair over his bald pate, Titmouse answered, ‘My Lord, they’re moving fast now. Folkvadr warned DCC Maddeley that Redd and Cummings had forty-eight hours – then Seaton and I would take over the case. Since then, the DCIs have been clutching at straws. Both DCI Redd of homicide and DCI Cummings from vice are now working on the case. He’s going to the mansion tonight to interview your mother as soon as they get hold of the plans. They are also getting some of our Chosen’s clothing now for the tracker dogs, so I assume they’ll try and do a sweep of the mansion and the grounds.’

‘Mama does not have a clue about our Grove or where we will celebrate the Solstice. Neither do Redd and Cummings. Anyway, I will not permit them to search—’

‘Don’t arouse their suspicions. They won’t find anything; it’s too well concealed.

Assured, Adakan said, ‘So be it. It will be the beginning of a new era. Our sacrifice will go global; they cannot stop the rise of the Druid Order. We have powerful politicians in office on our side, doctors, bankers, economists, business entrepreneurs – we cannot fail. Avebury and Stonehenge are gathering forces, as are Cerne Abbas, Gloucester, and Warwick. These, too, will begin the sacred sacrificial rites, albeit we are the only ones using humans. But, after our glorious sacrifice, they will follow, give others the honour of sacrifice. Druidism will take its rightful place.’ His face mottled as he clenched his fists, raising them above his head. ‘Together, the Groves will rise as one to reign once more over England. We will be a force few can withstand, our message travelling worldwide.’

Beaming, Folkvadr raised his fists in unison. ‘There will be a Druid Grove in each county. The gods will walk the earth. So now, let us refine the last details. Let us be ready to move the Sun, to save the earth. The time is coming when people will bow down and worship the Goddess, the Oracle – be honoured to be chosen for sacrifice.’

Ondujor asked, ‘Will Alfhildr join us this evening?

‘No – my daughter will not take part.’ Adakan frowned, ‘She is suffering some misplaced grief over her fiancé’s execution. Until she regains her senses, she will be held with the Chosen One. But come; let us go over the final plans for the ceremony and the sacrifice.’

The flares in sconces flickered on the flint walls as he rolled out the sheets of parchment on the roughhewn table. ‘The guests of the Mystery Coach Tour will arrive in the grounds of Medbury on Sunday. They will then disembark, have refreshments, and shown around the grounds, then use the tunnel to the Church. We will make the pretense of showing the ancient interior as part of the tour. We will have a buffet of tea and hors d’oeuvres laid out in the main part of the church, before the altar. Quite fitting I think.’

‘It’s a good thing we’re reaching our goa; thee Ovates are clamouring for more and more drugs. I can hardly control them.’

Nodding, Ondujor said, ‘Soon we won’t have to. Soon we will be sitting at the feet of the Gods. Then, the whole world will know of our sacrifice. They will carve our names in stone.’

Adakan punched the table. ‘We will herald a new world order, nature will be restored to her former glory, the Industrial Age will give way to the Elysian.’

Gemma raised her head, sighing with relief; she’d drifted in and out of consciousness for days. But, her head was now clear, her thoughts sharp. But, where was she? She felt a foam mattress beneath her, felt straw strewn across a dirt floor. A dim glimmer of light glowed from a candle encased in a glass lamp. To one side was a door, the wood black, the upper part chiselled out to hold iron bars. She stiffened; oh dear. God, she was a captive in some kind of cell.

She remembered a man approaching her, dark hair, a business suit … yes … a BMW … Black. Her car broke down; she had a meeting to go to … Luke? Yes, she’d spent the night with Luke; he’d gone on ahead. Then she was leaning over, peering into the bonnet of her car only to be grasped from behind, and lifted off her feet. She was helpless, kicking, scratching at strong male hands, trying to scream, a rag pressed over her face … darkness – nightmares. Part of the time, she knew she was dreaming, could even to some extent direct the dream world, knowing that somehow she might squirm up into reality.

She looked over to see a figure lying over the other side of the cell, silent, unmoving. Her voice sounded weak, cracked. ‘Hello – hello?’

Through the gloom, the figure stirred, rising slowly. ‘Yeah? You’re awake … at last. Who are you?’

‘Gemma – Gemma Rodenbury and you?’

‘Julia Medbury. We’re prisoners’

‘How? Why?’

‘My father is insane – he thinks he’s a fucking reincarnation – an Arch Druid.’

‘Druid?’

‘It’s a long story – bastards. They’re gonna murder us all.’

‘Murder? Why?’

‘Sacrifices to their Goddess. They believe they’re reincarnated druids, calling each other by ancient Norse names, carrying out rituals. They’re all fucking insane – drugged up to the eyeballs. The drugs are scrambling their brains. First of all, it was okay, but then the hallucinations got worse and worst; some of them are off their fucking heads now.’

Gemma felt ice cubes slither down her spine. ‘You’re talking about the killings – the ones on the news?’

‘Yes, it didn’t start off like that; it was okay – fun. Just a group of people having an excuse to have great sex, or so I thought. I didn’t know my father was taking it seriously. I mean, I disagreed with it initially, but it was exciting, so I gave in. But then the drugs got severe; that’s when the murders really started, not just abductions – murders.

‘Why didn’t you just leave?’

‘I wanted to – so did my fiancé. ‘Her voice became small, a whisper, ‘They killed him, you know? They ripped open his back with a butcher’s knife and pulled his ribs through his spin; they looked like two bloodied wings – an angel. The druids called it the Blood Eagle.’

‘What? But that’s monstrous.’

‘It’s true, but it won’t be in the papers – it’s too soon, too gruesome, there’d be full-scale panic. They forced us to abduct the first couple – I said it was criminal – that we wouldn’t, but that’s when they told us what they would do to us. They made us attend a sacrifice – one of their own, he’d defiled the first victim – Delle. She was supposed to be the oracle -they cut off her head. I won’t tell you what they did to him.’

Gemma gasped, ‘Isn’t there any way out?’

‘None, we’re in a small cellar next to the Grove; it’s a subterranean cavern. We’ll never get out; they’ve got alarms everywhere.’

‘So what can we do?’

‘If you believe in any God – pray.’

Chapter 47

Redd smile; at last, the dowager was home. It was leaving it fine, but there was still not enough evidence for a warrant. He glanced into the rear mirror, watching Sweet Pea sway to the rhythm of the car, his huge head just missing the roof. Surprisingly, the dog was well behaved. It seemed it was only in greeting people that he went berserk.

Owen and McDonnell reported frequent visits by Mainwaring and Titmouse and the owner of the coach tour company, Terry Sparke. Still, they could hardly be had up for going to dinner with the Earl. It may not be enough for a warrant, but it was enough for him. ‘Jack’s meeting us at the gates; he’s got the plans and the last victim’s clothes. I think I could persuade the dowager to allow us to search the grounds; I mean, she is on our side. Just depends if the Earl is there. He’ll try to obstruct us, play for time, insist we get a warrant, and I don’t think we’d be successful. Tess frowned. ‘Can’t you do it at night, or do they have guards or something?’

Redd looked at her. ‘You have a point there, but it could put my job on the line. You’d better come in with us, calm the old girl down if necessary.’

‘Yes, of course. Be glad to help.’

‘Look, there’s Jack, and he’s got a bag. Pulling up, Redd lowered the car window. ‘Hi there, did you get some of Gemma’s clothes.?’

‘Yes, there are quite a few things here, so let’s hope your dog is a good tracker.’

‘How about the plans?’

‘Yeah, got them her—the council offices area warren. We found them eventually in one of the basements. It looks like they’ve got a derelict chapel in the grounds past that grove of yew trees. It’s hundreds of years old. The interesting thing is Dan, underneath the chapel, there’s a tunnel.’

Redd felt excitement like ants scratching his stomach, ‘We need to search it.’ However, as he said the words, the claustrophobia hit him, the ants turning to scorpions attacking the stomach wall. Catching the change of expression, Jack said, ‘You’ll be okay man, I’m with you. I’ve got some whiskey under the dashboard.’

‘Thanks – but I’ve got old faithful.’ His hand went to his pocket, fingering the bottle of diazepam. ‘Look, we’ve got the dog in the back here, so you’d better follow us up the drive.’ Looking up at the t wrought iron gates blacker than charcoal etched clouds, he saw the camera perched on the listing column. The lens glinted like an eagle’s eye. ‘I’ll just buzz the gate.’

On Redd lifting his badge to the security video camera, the gates swung open. ‘Right here goes – it’s like the entrance to Hades.’

As they drove, Tess wondered why Redd didn’t have treatment for the phobia. He certainly needed it. Tucking the subject away for another time, she said, ‘The Downs are riddled with tunnels – so many digs for prehistoric sites, besides the chalk and flint mines. You never know; they could lead to other sites.’

‘Well, let’s hope we can persuade the dowager to let us search the grounds.’

The great oak doors opened to reveal a pompous butler, his potbelly straining against the buttons of his formal tailcoat. ‘How may I help you?’

Redd raised his badge again. ‘We’re here to see the dowager.’

The butler inclined his head slightly. ‘Your card?’

Redd sighed, reaching into his inside pocket.

As they waited, Tess muttered, ‘It’s almost as if you’re requesting an audience with the Queen.’

Redd smiled. ‘The dowager seems quite approachable; the Earl is another matter.’

The butler reappeared, his lips a light purple in the plum-shaped face. ‘This way, please.’

Following him into the mansion, Tess admired the mahogany panelled walls, the heads of great stags mounted like sentinels, their eyes, soft, glowing in the lights of an immense crystal chandelier. Earls through the centuries posed from canvasses blackened with age. Some in military uniform clasped swords, whilst others sat astride a favourite warhorse.Sour-faced matrons with fat black ringlets glared from high lace collars gracing bombazine dresses. Between them, angelic young women surrounded with impish cherubs, gazed down with melancholic eyes. He almost winced, as they passed a dark painting. The light dimly outlined a cloaked figure, the hood revealinga gaunt face. A tattooed hand grasped a rusty scythe; the only sign of a Druid so far.

After some minutes of walking through the opulence of rooms furnished with antiques, the butler knocked gently on the door, before opening it. He announced them in haughty tones, ‘Milady the police.’ Waving them in, he said, ‘Chief Detective Inspector Daniel Redd, Chief Detective Inspector Jack Cummings, and….’ He paused looking at Tess, ‘I’m sorry madam; I didn’t get your name.’

Tess said quietly, ‘Doctor Tessa Davies.’ The butler turned back to the dowager, ‘Doctor Tessa Davies milady.’ Bowing to no one, in particular, he left the room.

Seated in a Queen Anne chair, the dowager tapped her silver-headed stick, observing them,hawk-eyed. ‘Sit gentlemen, sit.’

Before taking a seat, Redd stepped forward, ‘Milady, we spoke with you in the hospital. You told us you were concerned about your granddaughter.’

‘Concerned?’ she shrilled, ‘Concerned? Is that what you’d call it? I told you the other day, young man, my son, the murdering bugger, cut up my granddaughter into little pieces and put them in a black plastic bag – and you say I’m concerned?’

Surprised she’d remembered, Redd said, ‘I’m sorry, milady; I didn’t mean to upset you.’

‘Upset? I’m terrified – distraught, I tell you- dear God – they’re demons.’ Her voice raised, ‘Demons.’

‘Can you tell us a little more about these demons?’

‘More – what more can I say? They cut off her head. Do you want me to describe it? Have a heart attack? We’re not talking about biscuits here; we’re talking about bits of my granddaughter. Find her. Find her murderer. Find my son.’

Redd remained standing. ‘Is the earl here tonight?’

‘No, he’s off as usual. I’m ashamed of the company he keeps; a tradesman – something to do with lorries and coaches. Such a common person, his language is abhorrent. I am ashamed. My son went to one of the finest schools in the Downs – a boarder. At least I got rid of him for the school terms. Thank God, he’s still friendly with Mainwaring – he’s got quite a prestigious position in the police force you know.

Redd tried to keep; his face composed. ‘Mainwaring? The Assistant Chief Constable?’

‘Yes – so why he has to have that common little man here, I don’t know.’

Redd gently interrupted, ‘You say you were with a nurse?’

‘Did I? A nurse? Ah yes … her name is? Oh dear, what the hell is her name? I haven’t seen her since. It’s disgraceful; these nurses come and go. Wait I’ll ring for Nurse Phillipa – yes Phillipa. She’ll know.’

Ringing the bell imperiously, she placed it on a marble side table, tapping her stick impatiently. Within seconds, a woman in her early fifties entered the room Her rich brown hair was swept up in a chignon, her eyes, like hard amethysts, the lips, a scarlet red scar across a plump face.

‘Nurse, tell these people, tell them Freddie murdered … err … Ju…. Tell them. You saw it, saw the legs and arms, the head on the pedestal – tell them.’

Redd did not question the dowager, knowing that she was referring to her granddaughter.

The nurse gazed hard at Redd. ‘And you are?’

‘CDI Daniel Redd, Chief inspector Jack Cummings, and Doctor Tessa Davies.’

‘I see; if her ladyship insists there’s been a terrible murder, we must act on it.’

Thumping her stick on the ground, the dowager almost screamed, ‘Tell him – tell him about the bits, the legs, the arms – tell him.’

Casting her eyes to the floor, the nurse said carefully, ‘We must pay attention to what her ladyship is saying.’

Something in her voice made Redd pause; he’d heard it before, somewhere? Where was it? Ignoring it, for the moment, he said, ‘Can you tell us where her ladyship’s granddaughter is?’

‘Lady Julia has gone on vacation with friends.’

‘What?’ the Dowager roared, ‘How dare you – you lying bitch – get out – get out now – you’re dismissed – dismissed. Seeing the old lady stagger, Tess ran to her. ‘Please, Ma’am, come – come and sit down.’ Struggling, the dowager shouted at the nurse, ‘You’re dismissed – leave this house – now.’

Chapter 48

Almost forcing the Dowager’s frail body into the chair, Tess stroked the gnarled hand, the papery skin covered in age spots. ‘Please milady be calm, be—’

Mollified, the dowager almost smiled, ‘You remind me of one of my cousins; he married an heiress from America. Then, turning abruptly to the nurse, she said, ‘go-go – now – you – you traitor.’

The nurse turned, addressing Redd, ‘Excuse me.’

His heart jumped, as he remembered her voice at the hospital, the voice that talked to him at the end of the phone. It confirmed his suspicions. He had not been talking to the granddaughter at all; he had been talking to this woman – an imposter. He followed her outside, ‘I take it you will be leaving, nurse?’

‘Oh no, this is just another tirade. She’ll forget all about it; the Alzheimer’s advanced.’

‘At the hospital, she insisted it was her granddaughter. I spoke to Julia on the telephone as well. I gather from your guarded answers that you did not witness any crime?’

‘No – indeed. The Dowager does not leave her room at night, let alone search the cellars. She can hardly walk, Inspector.’

‘I see; thank you for your time. So you’ll be here if I have any more questions?’

‘Of course.’

‘I don’t have your full name?’

‘Nurse Phillipa Trent.’

As he turned to go, he said, ‘One more thing nurse, the dowager talks of another nurse, is she still here?’

‘No, Inspector. She left in the middle of the night. Most probably couldn’t take anymore of milady’s tantrums. An Alzheimer’s patient is not easy to nurse.’

Redd returned to the room. ‘These cellars milady, where are they?’

‘Underneath the mansion of course, where else would they be?’

Redd curbed a grin, at times; this lady was sharper than honed steel despite her dementia. ‘Of course – but how do you reach them?’

‘There’s a lift to the ground floo; the cellars are in the East Wing.’

Jack said, ‘Milady, it has come to our notice that you have a chapel in the grounds.’

‘Oh yes, we attended services regularly, you know. Now it is derelict. Such a shame; what is the country coming to? People are no longer attending the church; goodness knows what is happening to the morals of today. I mean they do not even get married these days; they have partners – I ask you – partners? We used to attend St Stephen’s church, but even that is falling down. The Vicar there was so kind. Such a lovely man.’

Nodding Redd said, ‘Then you won’t mind if we have a look over the mansion and the church?’

‘Of course I don’t mind – I’ve been telling you, Ju – Juju is here, Nurse … I’ve forgotten her name, oh, dear, never mind; she’s here too. Look, I’ll be happy to show you the cellars.

‘No – no milady we don’t want to put you to any discomfort.’

‘Don’t insult me. Discomfort? You are talking to an athlete, an ex-Olympian. I would have you know I won eight gold medals – eight, so do not tell me about discomfort. I can run circles around you – you young pup.’

Feeding the fantasy, Redd said, ‘An Olympic champion, I am impressed. I would like you to come along milady, but we have special exercises to carry out; however, we will report back to you.’

Mollified, the Dowager nodded. ‘Then startstraight away, there’s not a moment to be lost. I shall ring for the butler to show you the lift and cellars.’

His shoulders straight, coattails swinging the man escorted them to the lift. ‘There’s not enough room for us al; I’ll meet you at the bottom and show you the cellars.’

In the lift, Jack murmured, ‘We’d better go over the plans.’

Nodding agreement, Redd turned to Tess. ‘Time to get Sweetpea. I’ll just go find the butler. Won’t be long.’

Minutes later, Tess charged through the main doors with an ecstatic dog straining at the lead. ‘For God’s sake Sweetpea don’t let me down.’

Jack grinned; this was his first experience of the Greater Swiss Mountain dog, and he was electrified. ‘My God, he’s a monster.’

Struggling, Tess said, ‘Don’t I know it? Now calm down – calm down.’ She shook the dog’s lead. ‘Sit – sit.’ At which command, in his effort to get to Redd, he almost knocked over the butler. Ruffling the dog’s fur, Redd looked up at the astonished man, who hurriedly brushed some dog hairs off his coattails. ‘We’ll be okay now thanks. It’ll take a couple of hours, I guess, to complete the search.’

Bowing slightly, eyes askance, the man hurried away.

Entering the cellar and switching on the lights, Redd said, ‘Okay, let’s do it. Mind the steps, Tess, they’re quite steep.’

The musty smell of moss and lichen assailed them, as they entered the empty space. ‘Right, now we’re alone, a couple of important points. First, did you both hear the dowager rattling on about the Earl’s friends – the common little man -coaches and lorries? That’s Terry Sparkes, he owns a fleet of coaches. Owen and McConnell have seen them here several times.’

Jack nodded, ‘Yeah – so Sparkes would tie in with the Mystery Tour. Then there’s Mainwaring – the list of suspects grow.’

Turning to Tess, Redd said, ‘Let’s get Sweetpea to smell the clothes.’

Taking the clothes from his briefcase, Jack bundled them under Sweetpea’s twitching nose. Sniffing them, the dog sat down and whined. Puzzled, Jack said, ‘What’s he doing?’

Tess grinned, ‘He’s waiting for me to give the word, once I do. There’ll be no stopping him. Sweetpea. Search.’

Immediately, the dog leapt into action, his nose almost sweeping the ground, as he padded along the sides of the walls until he reached the far corner. He then sat and raising his head, whined, one paw raised.

Tess whispered, ‘She’s been here – look; he’s pointing.’

Jack went forward. ‘Jesus – that was quick – he should be in the K9 unit.’

Nodding, Redd walked over to join Tess. ‘The corner is swept almost clean. Look here, the lichen has been rubbed off the wall.’

Jack grinned. ‘Looks like we’re getting somewhere.’

Redd grimaced. ‘Still only supposition. We need a significant cause to tear this place down.

Tess looked closely. ‘Yes; I see what you mean; it’s certainly disturbed here. But where would they have taken her?’

Tracing the plans with his finger, Redd muttered, ‘There’re three doors, the one to the left leads to the grounds, the other to the tunnel and two cellars, and the other to some stairs.’

Jack murmured, ‘They may have used them for meetings. This one leads to the tunnel and the Church. It must have been a priest’s escape route – Queen Elizabeth the First.’

Nodding, Jack said, ‘Let’s have a look in the cellars first.’

The first door offered no resistance, having only a rusted iron latch. Entering, Jack said, ‘Wine cellar, got some good vintages here of course.’

Walking along rows of wine racks, Red whistled, ‘Must be worth a fortune. Okay, nothing here, let’s try the other one.’

The second cellar proved more difficult. Unperturbed, Redd pulled out a small bunch of pins and keys. Choosing a pin, he inserted it in the lock, twisting it. Finally, the door swung open to reveal a room cluttered with discarded furniture.

Tess peered in, ‘Some good antiques and collectibles here. That chair over there is definitely Queen Anne and that vase there is beautiful. Look, they’ve got a bookcase cabinet full of old books. They should be in a library.’

Redd touched her shoulder. ‘No dismembered limbs here – let’s try the tunnel.’


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Copyright © Katy Walters

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