Hunter’s Revenge

Today I’m delighted to share an extract from the second edition of crime writer Val Penny’s novel, Hunter’s Revenge, published yesterday by Spellbound Books (and available via this link: geni.us/a13c)

Hunter’s Revenge Extract

Linda has found the body of the victim in his porch when she tried to deliver a book. DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough examine the scene and discover the corpse is the body of their friend George Reinbold.

DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough pulled up just behind the ambulance. Hunter liked spring: he could almost smell the world waking up. The freshness of the air encouraged crocuses and daffodils to decorate flower beds, and buds of leaves to appear on trees. Edinburgh had a beauty in every season, but he found his city especially lovely in springtime. However, today was not one of those fine, balmy spring days. It was bright enough, but sharp and cold. Hunter did not like chilly days like today as much as the warmer days he hoped April would bring.

He and Tim got out of the car. The detective constable dwarfed Hunter by an easy five inches, but as Hunter stood and took in the scene with a serious face and intelligent piercing blue eyes, it was clear that he was the man in charge. Hunter quickly identified the girl sitting on the wet grass as the source of a loud and blood-curdling racket that offended his ears. He looked from the girl to Tim and back again.

“You deal with her, young Myerscough. It’s far too early for me to be coping with weeping women. Try to get some sense out of her, and get her to be quiet, will you? I can’t think with that noise going on.”

“Yes, Sir.” Tim took two strides and crouched down beside the young woman. “Hello, I’m DC Tim Myerscough. What’s your name?”

“Linda.”

“Linda?”

“Linda Maguire.” She stopped crying but was still sobbing hard.

“So, Linda, it was you who found the body, was it?” Tim asked.

She looked at him as if she thought he was crazy. “Well, I don’t get this upset just because there’s nobody home. I don’t get paid enough for this. It’s awful. Have you seen it? Don’t look. The place is all blood and brains. The back of his head’s gone. I can’t un-see that, you know.” Linda started weeping again as Hunter shouted.

“Tim! Tim! DC Myerscough. Here. Now.” Hunter’s face was grey. “Tim, you won’t believe who the victim is. It’s George Reinbold, shot in the head.”

“What? Oh No! Not our George Reinbold? Head of the Crime Scene Investigations?”

“Not any more he’s not.”

“No, it can’t be. It must be a mistake, he’s just an old man. Who would want to kill him?”

“Don’t take my word for it. Feel free to look but hold on to your breakfast.” Hunter watched as Tim went over and stuck his head around the door and withdrew it quickly.

Linda was right, you can’t un-see that.

“Boss, that’s been close range. Tiny hole in the forehead, but they’ve blown the back of his skull right off.”

“Hmm. Bloody awful. It’s got to be a professional job. But the murderer would surely be hit by some spray from the blood.” Hunter grimaced.

“Definitely. This is surely a case of mistaken identity? Nobody would want to hurt George?” Tim’s questions asked for the reassurance that Hunter could not give.

“We’ll need to find out what he’s been working on recently. It could be a targeted attack. And I certainly don’t want our CSIs working on this; it would be too traumatic. I’ll call Glasgow and get them to send a team over. PC Angus McKenzie can stay at the door to restrict access while I get DS Jane Renwick to gather a team to organise door-to-door enquiries. One thing is for sure, somebody saw something or heard the gun.”

“Yes.” Tim paused “Will Doctor Sharma be able to do the post-mortem?”

“I doubt she would allow anybody else that honour, but it won’t be easy for her. She liked George and respected him greatly. You stay here and take the witness statement from that girl. When Meera Sharma and the CSIs are finished, I want you and me into that flat as soon as possible to find out everything we can about George and why he was murdered.”

Tim turned back to Linda and walked slowly across the grass. He saw the young delivery woman was now dry-heaving as hard as she was weeping. It must have been a terrible shock for her. He took out his notebook in a vain effort to try to divert her attention. He smiled at her as she lifted her head. His smile seemed to work as a better diversion.

He was aware of her looking up at him. He watched as she swept her hair behind her ear, glanced into his eyes and she allowed her glance to rove from his eyes to his hair, smile and shoulders. For some reason he became self-conscious about his broken nose. This was silly. He blushed and realised that she had stopped sobbing.

 Tim looked at her more closely. Under all the thick layer of make-up and dribbles of snot, she was pretty.

He took down her personal details and then they discussed how Linda’s morning had been going before her shocking discovery.

“What were you delivering to Mr Reinbold?” Tim asked.

“A book. The label just says a book.”

“But it also says it’s insured for £25,000. That’s some book,” Tim said, looking at Linda’s delivery list.

“I didn’t notice that. It’s an awful lot.”

Tim looked around for help and caught sight of DS Jane Renwick, who had joined Hunter talking to the paramedics. Tim wondered how Jane always looked so elegant, as though she had just walked off a magazine cover.

“Sarge? Sarge, can you help with this?” Tim called to Jane.

“What’s up, Tim?”

“Linda here has on her manifest that the parcel Mr Reinbold was expecting was a book, but I’ve noticed it’s insured for £25,000. That seems a great deal for a book.”

“It certainly does. Do we know where the parcel is?”

Linda pulled it out from underneath her. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to sit on the grass. It’s wet,” she said by way of explanation.

Jane looked at the girl and sighed. Then she held out her hand and, in the presence of Linda and Tim, opened the parcel.

“It is indeed a book. A signed first edition of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. My goodness. It’s amazing! Include this in the statement, Tim, and give Linda a note to say that we now hold the book. I’ll take it back to the station. We’ll need to get a proper valuation.”

“Wow! All that for a kiddies’ book.” Linda finished her statement and agreed to come down to the station to sign a typed copy whenever Tim phoned her to tell her it was ready. He caught her allowing herself one more gaze into his eyes before they stood up. Tim was over a foot taller than her diminutive five foot two inches.

“Thank you for all your help today, Linda,” Tim said.

“It’s all right, but I suppose I better get on with my deliveries. I’m ever so late. It would be me who found the bloody body.”

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is a loyal friend and a fair leader. He is called to the scene of a murder in Edinburgh where the corpse has been fatally shot. He is dismayed to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Hunter must investigate Reinbold’s murky past in Germany to identify George’s killer.

At the same time, Hunter is tasked with looking into a previously undetected criminal gang supplying drugs from Peru. There seems to be no connection between the murder and the drug supply until Hunter unexpectedly secures help from inmates of the local jail.

Hunter’s investigations are hampered by distracted members of his team and unobservant witnesses.

Reinbold was not the quiet, old man Hunter believed him to be and his killer bore their grudge for a lifetime.

Val Penny has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.

Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and novels. Val is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat.

Christmas Sale

As Christmas approaches, I’ve decided to do a special offer on my latest poetry collection, LifeTimes, which will be available for £5 (normal price £7) between now and the end of December. You can read a selection of poems from LifeTimes (and some more of my poems) here: https://www.tetaylor.co.uk/archive

My other collection, Sea Without a Shore, and my two novels, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day are all also available for £5 each. Or you can by any two for £9, any three for £13, or all four for £17 – plus £2.25 per book postage and packing, if you’d like to receive them by post. If you’d like any books, e-mail me on tim.e.taylor@talk21.com.

Review of LifeTimes by Chris Preddle:

“These are truthful, wise and moving poems about an ‘ordinary’ lifetime (as if any were such) made compelling by the poetry. Most poems are about childhood, early life, parenthood and family life, with some valedictory poems and elegies at the end. Tim’s approach is straightforward, without affectation or rhetoric, so that I feel with these feeling poems. Lines and phrases are felicitous and right, there are some strong and unusual metaphors, and Tim has a real gift for the last line of a poem. He has a good sense of form and often uses stanzas of free verse, with occasional traditional forms and rhyme. I liked especially ‘Candy Floss’, ‘To My Daughter’, ‘The Cowrie Shell’, ‘Still Waters?’ and ‘Christmas Card Friends’. And the opening and closing poems contain the whole beautifully, in a slim volume with a cover of nine photos of a continuing lifetime.”

Paperweight

Today I’m pleased to host a poem from Dennis Tomlinson’s latest collection, Ornaments:

Paperweight

A simple paperweight - blue and green
flowers refracted by the glass.

All that I have of my mother's sister,
her thatched cottage filled with such trinkets.

Musing, I see her face rise up,
smiling like Queen Elizabeth.

Ornaments contains a series of brief poems reflecting on household and garden ornaments and their deeper meaning. Dennis began it in the spring of 2020, when the national lockdown caused people to retreat into the domestic sphere.

You can buy it at the cover price of £12.50, either from the publisher’s website, www.paekakarikipress.com, or directly from the author at d.c.tomlinson@aol.co.uk.

DENNIS TOMLINSON lives in London. He worked for a while as a translator from the German and then as a postman but took early retirement in 2020. His poems and translations have appeared in many magazines, in anthologies and on websites. His first poetry pamphlet, Sleepless Nights (Maverick Mustang Manuscripts), came out in 2019 and his second collection, Over the Road (Dempsey & Windle) in 2021. 

The Gift

Since it’s the time of year when we remember the victims of war (and are reminded daily of its horrors in news from Ukraine), I thought I’d share one of my occasional war poems today. This is an old one, from my first collection, Sea Without a Shore.

The Gift

He gave his life, they said
as if it were some little thing
he thought might be more use to someone else.

And true, there was a time
when, drunk on martial sentiments and songs,
and for some noble end, he would have given.
But not for fifty yards of mud
long stripped of all that’s beautiful or green.
Not even worms would think it worth their while.

For this, his life was swindled from him,
so he thought, as in his hole
he felt it drain away:
but in the end, when twenty thousand lives like his
were not enough to pay the mortgage on that land,
not even swindled, merely stolen.  

Grandmother

I’m pleased to host a chilling Halloween tale today by fellow Holmfirth Writer Vincent Johnson.

Halloween

Banging shutters wake me, just as the hall clock is striking midnight, and the unresponsive light-switch tells me the electricity is off. Between fizzing strobe lightening, thunderclaps growl like gods tumbling down their stairs. I sense an intruder in the house. A violent gust bursts the lounge windows asunder, clattering shutters and snuffing both my candle and the memorial candle lit to remember my grandmother’s death, which normally burns on the mantelpiece throughout Halloween.

‘Always remember your dead kin and friends’ she had said to us all, a few days before she had died. ‘Forget us at your peril’….

Most of the older family have since passed on, and the younger ones moved away.  Now there’s just me, elderly and alone, shuffling around this old family home. Howling down the chimney, the brutal wind bellows the fire’s dying fumes and ash into the lounge. Then, another lightening flash ignites the billowing smoke, and for an instant,  I see an infernal hologram of Grandma’s stricken face caught in the flickering cloud, like some silent horror movie, her eyes brimming with knowing sorrow.

The house yaws like some great ship, its ivied walls, creaking floorboards and rafters, and rattling eaves and casements buffeted by the wailing sea wind that roars in the trees. Rats gnaw and scratch in the attic, Ash twigs claw the rooftiles, and I can hear slippered footsteps dragging across the upper floor….

Grandma’s very last words had been directed at me,  ‘I will come back for you my dear, I will come back when it’s time.’

Silvered in the next flash I see her, sitting in her rocking chair by the hearth, looking directly at me with that vacant and slightly menacing smile, her knobbled hands clasped on her lap. The smoky air is ice-cold, and the grandfather clock’s ponderous tock is getting louder and louder, along with the banging on the upstairs shutters.… and then, drenched in sweat I wake up in my bed to the sound of banging shutters. Midnight is chiming, and the electricity is off.

Come Back

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by fellow Holmfirth Writer Sally Brown, inspired by the landscape of Saddleworth Moor and the child victims buried there by the Moors Murderers. One of them, Keith Bennett, was the subject of a recent, sadly unsuccessful search. His family still leave flowers by the roadside even today.

Come Back
 
We meet for breakfast
cramped in the confines of the car.
Fried egg butty
and a flask of tea,
shared over a view of Wessenden
and the shrine to lost children
who lie deep in the peat
below.
 
The wind flaps at withered flowers
as we gaze out over the moor.
How easily this landscape
absorbs the years of tears and searching,
moulding itself to the bodies,
covering the tracks of those
who know its secret places,
revealing nothing.
 
Heading north along the Pennine Way,
the path, well-worn and lonely,
leads us down
past reservoir and clough,
followed only by the grouse’s harsh ‘go back’.
 
Or is it a child’s cry
that catches in the breeze?
“I am here
beneath your feet.
Don’t leave me,
come back, come back.”

Light

I’m excited to announce that I have a story in a forthcoming speculative fiction anthology, Light, to be published on Monday 10 October by Twisted Fate Publishing. A successor to Darkness (see this post), the anthology features, as well as several fine local writers, stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky (one of my favourite sci-fi writers) and fantasy crime writer Peter McLean.

The anthology is available to pre-order now via this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Light-Anthology-Twisted-Charity-Anthologies/dp/1739173201/

All profits from the sale of the book will go to the mental health charity, Mind.

My story in the anthology, The Choosing, is the second to be published from my slow-burning sci-fi project. This will get a significant boost now I have begun an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, which will be very much focused on the project.

Here’s a short extract from the story. Falathe has always aspired to become a priest. Now, she is on the point of achieving her dream …

***

The tunnel wound this way and that, sloping steadily downwards all the time, and Falathe began to notice a strange aroma that grew stronger and stronger as they descended.

                The passage finally opened into a larger chamber lit by several lamps. The priest motioned for Falathe to stand still, then joined two other robed figures who stood in the centre of the room. One of these took a step forward.

                “Falathe, daughter of Aravinte. Are you ready to join with the God?”

                “I am ready. My whole life has been no more than preparation for this moment.” The words came easily, without the need to think of them.

                “Will you serve the God, without question?”

                “I give myself to the God entirely. I offer my body and mind to it. They are no longer my own.”

                “Then drink this, and the God will accept your service.”

                The third priest handed her a bowl containing a thick blue liquid.

                “Swallow the liquid quickly: do not hesitate.”

                She did as she was ordered, fighting down the urge to gag as the bitter drink flowed through her mouth. Then she began to feel faint. Her legs gave way and she had a vague sense of the arms of the priests arresting her fall just before she lost consciousness.

                 Falathe’s dreams were visions of hell. She was roasting on a spit, then naked on a mountain of ice, then plunged into a lake of liquid metal. Monsters assailed her; priests wearing cowls that hid their faces solemnly urged her to remain strong.

                As a bizarre winged creature hurtled towards her, she lurched violently to one side to avoid it, and the sudden movement jerked her awake. Falathe looked around. She was in the same room, in a small bed against one of the walls. It was impossible to know how long she had been unconscious.

                A small window in the door rapped shut. The three priests she had met before entered the room. She arose and greeted them, feeling stronger than before but still faint and nauseous. One of the priests now opened a second door in the far side of the chamber and the others shepherded her towards it.

                “It is time for you to be taken into the presence of the God; time for you to see the Light.”

                The door led into a tunnel, which twisted downwards into a large, deep cavern. At the centre of the cavern was a great circular pit, in which lay a mass of some indescribable substance, bubbling and pulsating and overflowing the pit to form puddles and rivulets on the floor of the cave. It had a blue luminescence, filling the entire space with a pale, eerie light. This is the Light that we sing about in our hymns, Falathe realised. From the cavern roof above the pit, a dense mat of thin tendrils stretched down into the liquid. And the air was suffused with that astonishing, overpowering smell! Repellent, yet at the same time utterly intoxicating.

                This place must surely be the home of the God itself! Falathe felt an overwhelming, all-consuming love. “There is no love like love of the God,” she said, unprompted. The priests echoed her words. She felt euphoria, and a sense that everything was about to become clear to her.

                But there was something else. The feeling of nausea in her belly that had never quite gone away was bubbling up like the blue liquid in the pit and could no longer be denied. Falathe struggled against it for a few moments, then sank to her knees and emptied her stomach onto the floor. She knelt there, retching, for two or three minutes before she was finally able to get up. As she did so, the three priests confronted her. One of them spoke, in a voice that was calm but hard as stone.

                “We cannot continue with the ceremony. You must return to the antechamber.”

Cover pic: Richard Rowan.

Cave pic: Tycho (http://shansov.net/). Licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The Earth Waits

I’m delighted to host a poem today from fellow Holmfirth Writer Liz Heywood.

The Earth Waits

Rivers run, clouds drift, rain falls
The mountains stand unmoving
Bedded in their rock
Looking up at the sky
Snow settles, icefields cold hard 
Horizon and sky melded in white
An icecap tumbles

Otherwhere sand is blown into rising folded hills
Wide emptiness under the sun
Shapes quivering in the heat

The sea moves, restless, enquiring
White capped impatience rolling to land
High above, wings catch the air, hold it, swoop
And turn, riding the waves above the waves
Spying down into the deep
Catching the flash of scaled movement
Far below

In forests leaves rustle 
Sunlight splinters the green
Roots reach, murmuring, 
The silent whispering of ancient knowledge
Ancient truth, messages, 
Warnings…

And we – puny noisy self-important scuttling things
Busy at our tiny preoccupations
We do not listen.

And the earth waits.

Blighty

Just a random poem from me today. This was recently published in The Lake.

Blighty

When he returned, they were so glad
to find him whole, unblemished: four limbs,
two eyes, skin tanned but unburnt, unholed.
They’d heard the stories of what might have been,
those bodies minced and sutured back together, 
faces melted, bones and flesh replaced with metal. 
You made it through, they cried, wrapped arms
around the solid, reassuring mass of him, 
awaiting his embraces in return. None came:
those fine, muscled arms hung limply by his side. 
Such words as passed his mouth appeared
to come from very far away. So much of him
had missed the plane and was still over there,
among the bullets and the bombs that took
his friends but spared this now half-empty body.
What’s left of him is lost inside it, midway
between these caring faces and the other self 
for whom there can be no way back.

Pic: Ronnie Macdonald 2017.  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Intersection

It’s been an exciting year, poetry-wise, with the publication of my second collection, LifeTimes, and lots of poetry gigs. Following Small Seeds last week, I’ll be at Marsden Mechanics this evening, as one of six featured poets at Sarah Dixon’s Quiet Compere event, co-hosted by Rose Condo. Should be great! Thought I’d share one of the poems I’m planning to read.

Intersection

Two lives: 
two lines inscribed on time and space. 
Where yours began, where it was leading
I don’t know. My line was ragged, written 
in a drunken hand, lurching from 
one chance intersection to another. 

Two roads, 
one junction. A node, a synapse 
of society, a joining place 
of journeys, and of two lines: one straight,
serene and unaware; and one propelled 
that night by alcohol and gasoline.

Two seconds:
Two cries of terror, two lives flash  
before four eyes, twin drummers pounding,
a shrill duet of screeches, rushing
to crunching climax: two lines 
connecting at a single point.  

Two facts:
Nature does not permit two things
to occupy the same location. 
Once the tracks have come together
there can be no uncrossing; lines
once unwound cannot be reeled in. 

Two images:
Flashing lights surround a space criss-crossed 
by yellow tape; inside and out
the flow of human life congeals. 
X marks the spot where your line ended
and mine dived headlong into darkness.

Pic: Tony Webster 2018. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic