Just to whet your appetite, here’s the opening chapter of Chimera (A Kate Redman Mystery: Book 5). It’s available on pre-order from Amazon if you fancy reading the rest of it!
The night sky over Abbeyford was spangled with a million little explosions of light; red, blue, gold and green lit up the dark clouds before falling and fading into oblivion. In the town below, the crowds thronged the pavements and the open space of the fairground that lay to the north of the town park gardens. Along the high street came a fantastic beast, jointed in three places; a giant, scaled snake with huge yellow eyes. Children yelled and pointed, and adults clapped and cheered at the sight. Beneath the snake costume, fifteen sweating men held up the frame that supported its body. The night air carried the acrid tang of cordite from the fireworks and billowed with smoke from chestnuts cooking on braziers. It was thick with the greasy smell of the fast food vans offering chips and hot dogs and candy floss. Thumping bass music blared from the funfair on the park ground itself, pierced by the shrieks and delighted yells of those on the fast rides and the bumper cars. Abbeyford was enjoying its annual pagan festival; for one night in late September the town celebrated the myth and legend of the Abbeyford Wyrm, a giant snake-like creature once rumoured to have lived in the woods and forests surrounding the town.
Olly Chandler had something more than the festival on his mind. He and his girlfriend, Mia Smith, strolled through the fairground, hand in hand. Mia wanted to go on the Ghost Train but Olly scoffed. “Got something even better than that,” he said, pulling Mia close. “A quiet place just for us and some decent weed. How about that?”
Mia looked at him, pouting. Then she giggled. “Let’s get stoned and then go on the Ghost Train,” she said, close his ear. Her warm breath and the way she licked his neck after she spoke made him even more anxious to get her to where they were going.
“Come on,” he said and pulled at her hand. They ran, Mia a little awkwardly in her high heels, over the dusty, bruised grass of the park towards the dip of the hill and the river beyond it.
“Where we going, Olly?” Mia asked as they left the lighter area of the park and walked into the darkness, relieved only here and there by dim streetlights.
“You’ll see. We used to go there when we were kids. It’s private – no one ever goes there.”
“Okay.” She sounded doubtful. Olly found the footpath somehow – it was much more overgrown that it used to be – and pushed aside tree branches and brambles.
“Down there?” said Mia. She actually sounded nervous now. “What is it?”
“S’alright,” said Olly, conscious of a little spike of uneasiness himself. “It’s a row of little houses. They’re empty now, been like that for years.” The two of them pushed through the last of the undergrowth and came out onto a little back road. There were no lights but the moon had emerged from behind a cloud and cast a silvery radiance over the tumbledown buildings before them.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Mia looked down at herself, strewn with leaves and bits of undergrowth, and tutted. “Look at my top. This had better be worth it.”
“It’s fine,” Olly said impatiently. The desire he’d felt at the fairground was ebbing away, down here in the darkness and silence, not to mention the faint unpleasant smell that hung in the air. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. But where else did they have to go? He thought resentfully of his older brother, who’d recently gained his driving license. Only another year to go before Olly could take his test. He couldn’t wait.
Mia was still hanging back, and Olly felt protective. He pulled her close to him and kissed her, and she responded enthusiastically. “Come on, it’ll be fine,” he said. “You want to, don’t you?”
“’Course.” Mia took his hand trustingly and he led her through a space in the front garden wall of the first house in the row of three, where a gate had once hung.
Olly chose the first house because it was the nearest. If he remembered rightly, the door looked closed but could be opened with a shove. Though the house on the end had no front door at all…perhaps they should go there? No, they wanted a bit of privacy. Definitely this one, Olly thought to himself, a decision that would prove to cost him years of therapy.
They stumbled up the garden path to the front door, black in the moonlight. Olly put a hand out to the peeling paint and gave it a shove. The door creaked open and he felt a quick moment of triumph before the smell hit them in the face.
“Ugh, ugh, that’s disgusting,” shrieked Mia. “I’m not going in there.”
“It’s okay, it’s going, it’s going.” A night breeze whipped up and carried the worst of the stench away. “Come on,” said Olly, desperately. He couldn’t have said himself why he was so hell bent on getting into the cottage now, though his family would have told him it was because he had a stubborn streak a mile wide running through him.
He almost dragged Mia into the darkness of the cottage. Once inside, the smell returned and Olly almost gagged. Mia made a small, choked noise behind him. The inside of the cottage was pitch black, so black that as Olly inched forward, fumbling for his phone in order to use its pale screen light as a torch; his feet collided with something hard and he tripped and fell.
His phone went flying and he put both hands out to break his fall. Both hands connected with something that, while ostensibly solid, broke open under the impact of his body. Olly felt his hands sink into something peculiarly liquid and the smell, which had already been terrible enough, intensified to something so repulsive it felt almost like a physical force.
Behind him, Mia held her phone aloft and it cast a pale, ghostly light over the room, showing Olly what he’d actually fallen into. Mia began to scream, but he hardly heard her because, by that time, he was screaming himself.
Pre-order Chimera on Amazon, to be published on 14th December 2014.