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 a chapter every Monday and Thursday.
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Jeanette Walker plumped up the last cushion, looking around the small room, her impish face framed in dark curls, beaming. Neil would be so surprised. As she went to arrange the fruit bowl on the coffee table, the phone bleeped. Recognizing Neil’s number, she smiled as she said, ‘Hi babe. What? Hey, that’s great.’ She laughed, hugging the phone to her ear. ‘Tonight, at Two Blues? Wow. How did they pick you? Anyway, that’s fantastic. I’ll have tea ready when you come in; then we can get there early. Yeah, see you.’
Putting down the phone, she clapped her hands, rushing to the bedroom, picking out underwear, a gold sequin top from the chest of drawers, and from the wardrobe, a black satin mini skirt. Laying them on the bed along with a black lace bra, matching thong, and net tights, she went to the tiny bathroom.
They moved in a couple of weeks ago and since then had painted the entire flat. Yesterday, they both had long shifts returning home at eight PM, time only for a hurried meal of egg, bacon, and chips followed by a gooseberry yoghourt. After an hour’s TV, they fell into bed. It was an early-morning shift, so they needed their sleep -no time for sex or late-night talks.
Her pride and joy consisted of a small lounge, kitchen, two bedrooms, one of which was a box room with just enough space for a single bed and a chest of drawers. The tiny bathroom held a toilet and shower far better than the sink at the other flat with the daily quick shower at the hospital. They were ecstatic, their first home together. Up until getting the flat, they’d made do with a bedsit, for which they’d paid an exorbitant rent. However, with them both gaining their degrees as lab technicians in medical technology and research, they could afford this. Maybe in time, they’d have enough for a down payment on their flat.
Music thumped, vibrating through her chair as she sat sipping her drink. Neil tapped his fingers to the beat of the music. ‘It’s great here, dark though.’
Jeannette smiled. ‘I’m just so glad you got the tickets. Strange though, turning up at the lab. So they were just with a thank you note?’
Neil brushed his fingers through bright blond hair, glinting shades of green and red in the lights. ‘Yeah, I thought it was a joke when the post lad gave it to me. It was one of those, “Congratulations, Mr. Bennett; you have won a prize.” But, I didn’t have to spend a fortune on a phone call and then win a toaster – just the tickets. So good – didn’t seem to be any strings attached.’
‘Did you go in for a competition anywhere?’
‘No, I did fill in a questionnaire on the computer the other day – one of those survey things.’
‘Must have been that. It costs a bomb to get in here. As long as we stick to lager, we’ll be okay.’
Jeannette looked up to see a man and young woman approaching their table. Jeannette’s heart sank a little; after all, they’d bagged the table early, but now the others were filled up; they knew they’d have to share. The guy bent his head towards them. Raising his voice over the music, he said, ‘Mind if we sit here? All the tables are full.’
Neil sat back, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’
The girl smiled, looking great in pale grey silk mini shorts and black tights, her black chiffon top with long sleeves laced up at the front and side; Titian hair slicked into a ponytail flowing down her back. ‘Thanks, I thought I’d be standing on my pins for the night.’
Jeannette looked down at the built-up stilettos. ‘Hey, they’re designer – which one?’
‘Tony Bianco. They’re great, not shoes for standing in, though.’
Jeanette’s eyes widened. ‘Wow, they are gorgeous.’
Extending his hand, the guy said, ‘I’m Kevin, and this is Julia. Hey, it’s dark in here, isn’t it?’
Picking up her glass, Jeannette said, ‘Creates an atmosphere.’
Still standing, Kevin grinned, ‘Can I get you another one?’
Jeannette shook her head. ‘No thanks; I’ve had one already. I’ve got an early start tomorrow, so I’d better stick with this. Thanks anyway.’
Looking over to Neil, he said, ‘Want a refill?’
Neil laughed. ‘Yeah, why not. Thanks – Foster’s Lager.’
Grinning, Kevin left the table to get the drinks while Julia put her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands. ‘So, do you guys live around here?’
Jeannette nodded. ‘We’re not far from the hospital. Just moved into our new flat actually.’
‘Oh, that’s great; you must be excited.’
‘Yeah, I am, just putting the finishing touches to the furniture. We had to paint the whole flat, so we lived out of boxes for the first couple of weeks.’
‘You must be relieved to get it all straight.’
‘Yeah, now I can concentrate on learning to cook properly.’
The discussion carried on as Kevin arrived back with the drinks. As he handed a pint glass to Neil, Julia shouted over the hub of voices and throbbing music, ‘Jeanette and Neil have just moved into their new flat; it’s not far from here.’
Kevin grinned. ‘Is that so. We’re still looking; it’s really difficult to find anything in Brighton. Plenty of places outside, but we want to be near to where we work – save on the traveling.’
Neil said, ‘So what do you do?’
Taking a sip from his beer, Kevin pushed back a lock of dark blonde hair. ‘Well, I’m a Pharmacist, and Julia here is in research – chemistry.’
‘Hah, interesting. We’ve both just graduated – medical research lab technicians.’
‘Oh, so we’re kind of in the same professions.’
Looking up, he said, ‘The floors packed; do you want to dance, Julia?’
The girl shook her head. ‘I’ll have a drink first, warm up.’ Turning to look at Jeannette, she said, ‘You two dance?’
Jeannette nodded eagerly, ‘Oh yeah – love it.’
Kevin raised his hand. ‘Enjoy.’
Not wanting to bump into tables, Neil pushed his way through the gyrating bodies while they danced, tugging Jeannette along behind him. ‘Hey, nice couple.’
‘Julia’s very pretty.’
‘So are you. She’s pretty, but you’re drop-dead gorgeous.’
Jeannette felt her heart bursting with happiness; it was a fantastic night, Neil, the music, dancing, and the prospect of returning to the new flat, a sexy bedroom with the deep maroon silk duvet cover and pillow shams.
The beat changed, becoming slow – sensual. Jeannette’s movements enticed Neil. Moving nearer, he put his hands on her hips. She responded, arching her back, swaying to the slowing rhythm.
From the table, Kevin looked over to them, waving. As he lowered his hand, the smile vanished; tension caught his face in a vice. He looked down at the drinks, then at Julia. ‘Now? They’re engrossed with each other.’
Julia’s hand moved towards Jeanette’s drink.
Lowering her gaze, she examined the pics, unable to suppress a shudder racking her body as she saw the two mutilated bodies. She could feel the goosebumps rising on the skin of her arms. ‘God, I feel as if the room’s turned to ice.’
Redd gazed at her hair, the sun casting a blue sheen on ebony waves. Her finger hovered over the photo as she said, ‘Are they lying on the bare earth?’
‘Yes, the perps dug shallow graves. They’d strewn oak leaves around the bodies.’
Tessa peered at the photos. ‘Yes, you’re right, so are there any oak trees near the scene?’
‘I don’t know. I’d better go and have another look at the crime scene.’ Pausing, he said, ‘Would you like to come with me? It might help.’
Tess frowned; she was tired; it was a long day, and she’d had little sleep with the nightmares waking her in the small hours, her heart thudding, the sheets wet with perspiration. It took almost two hours to get back to sleep, despite her relaxation exercises. Maybe she needed to see Debbie again. ‘Err … I’m not sure I can make it.’ Seeing the concern in the blue eyes, she blurted out, ‘I’m tired; I’m having a few nightmares at the moment.’ She surprised herself; why was she saying this? She hardly knew him.
Redd saw the faint shadows beneath her eyes, the slightly drawn look of the pale olive skin. ‘Oh, I’m sorry … err … maybe another time?’
She hesitated; why did she feel the need to explain? Taking a breath, she said, ‘My sister is very ill – cancer. I called her three days ago, and I’ve had nightmares ever since – dreaming in symbols – terrifying symbols. My druid group is holding healing circles for her – praying to the Goddess. I believe in a kind of Power, whatever that may be. They have been so good to me. I feel safe with them.’
Redd wondered why she needed that security; what happened to her? Nodding, he kept quiet, his silence urging her to speak.
Her eyes clouded as she looked up at him. ‘She has aggressive cancer. I feel awful like I should give up the tenure – just go back home. It’s a helluva way when someone’s ill. I just want to be with her, you know.’ Raking pale fingers through her hair, she wondered why she was talking to him so intimately.
‘So where is home?’
Redd heard the suffering, sensed there was something more profound. ‘That’s south-east, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, they call it the Yellowhammer state after the bird or ‘The Heart of Dixie.’ I come from Mobile, the oldest state, founded by the French Colonists – near the Yazoo lands.’
‘So you might be of French extraction then?’
‘Who knows, the name Davies is Welsh, but I know my ancestors are mostly Welsh and Irish.’
‘Yeah, I’ve heard of Mobile. Look, how about coming out for that ride? Change of scene?’
Hesitating for a moment, she said, ‘You know that may be a good idea. Thanks. I’ll just go and get a jacket.’
Redd blurted out, ‘Why don’t you bring Sweetpea along, take him for a run? Kingsley Vale is a great place for dogs.’ He shocked himself with this suggestion, regretting it almost immediately, as he looked at the dog now sliding off the couch again.
‘I know, besides the group meetings, I often take Sweetpea over there. So you don’t mind?’ Looking out of the window to the road, she said, ‘I mean your car – it’s new, isn’t it?’
Redd saw his baby, the sleek black lines gleaming, the swish upholstery. Fuck it; he’d have dog hairs all over it. He couldn’t change his mind now. He felt his mouth tighten as he tried to smile, ‘No … that’s okay – he needs a run, I expect.’
‘Well, if you’re sure, I’ll get a dog blanket, save you having to brush up his hairs. He’s in the moulting phase at the moment. They don’t actually shed much at all – only twice a year.’
Redd swallowed, trust his luck. He spoke through his teeth, ‘Don’t worry – no bother; is it mate?’ He patted Sweetpea’s head, keeping his movements slow – didn’t want his hand in the brute’s mouth.
As Tess left the room, the dog ambled over, and lowering his head, licked the carpet around Redd’s feet. He hoped he didn’t start licking his shoes; he just didn’t trust those teeth.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Katy Walters
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Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: