With less than two weeks to go to the publication of Twisted Lives, I thought I'd share the first chapter with you.
I've quite enjoyed writing this one, as it's a grand finale to all six books in the Allie Shenton Series, really. I won't say anymore than that.
The book is with my proofreader now and I'm getting the final preparations done for October 28th.
The October day was pretty calm as Detective Inspector Allie Shenton drove along Hanley Road towards Smallthorne roundabouts, blue lights flashing and sirens wailing. There was a cloudless sky with a light breeze, and a temperature that wouldn’t go amiss in late summer. Even considering the circumstances, Allie was glad to be out of a stuffy office to enjoy the fresh air.
It wouldn’t be for long, though.
It was lunchtime in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and the roads were fairly steady. Allie negotiated the traffic to get to her destination as quickly as she could. Two members of the public, a man and a woman, had been found dead in a house, and she was on her way to investigate. Detective Sergeant Perry Wright and Detective Constable Frankie Higgins, were with her, too.
A call had come in from a distraught female who, according to the control room, hadn’t stopped screaming all the way through it. Allie didn’t want to think about what she must have seen to make her react that way, but she knew from experience, seeing one body was bad enough, never mind two. And stumbling on them would be a horrific ordeal. She hoped the girl wasn’t alone at the property.
‘Is there anything you know happening in the vicinity?’ she said, manoeuvring through a tight space, a loading lorry parked half on the pavement and half on the road.
‘Only the usual.’ Perry shook his head. ‘Nothing’s really happened since Billy Whitmore’s murder.’
Seven months ago in the north of the city, Billy Whitmore had been found at the back of a disused pub with fatal stab wounds. The Red Lion was on the next street to where he’d lived on the Limekiln Estate.
They’d caught his murderer shortly afterwards, but since then, the estate had been going into a freefall, a turf war between two groups of young males getting more violent week by week. Billy Whitmore had been a drug dealer, and people were still fighting to take over his patch.
Allie took another corner sharply. ‘I haven’t been to a murder-suicide in years.’
‘I don’t think I’ve ever been to one.’ Perry held on for dear life in the passenger seat. ‘It’s probably some idiot who’s killed his wife and then turned on himself because he can’t live with a prison sentence.'
‘Don’t be stereotypical!’ Allie turned towards him quickly to show she was joking, only to find him grinning. They were well aware in their line of work that there were assaults and violence aimed at, and on all, sexes and genders. There were no exceptions.
A few minutes later, Allie turned into Neville Street, switching off the blues and twos. Like many streets on the Limekiln Estate, it consisted mostly of semi-detached properties owned by a housing association and the local city council. Occasionally, the odd one was rented by a dodgy landlord. It was narrow for the amount of traffic that flowed through it, an unfortunate shortcut from one main road to another.
Ahead, an ambulance, emergency lights flashing, stood outside the house they needed, number four. She parked, and they went over to the property, noticing nothing unusual. At the moment, it seemed most of the residents of Neville Street were going about their daily business unaware of what was going on. But not for long. A woman above leaned on a gate at the top of her path, a phone to her ear. Across the other side, a young woman watching from the doorstep, a child on a tricycle racing around the front garden.
Allie would give it fifteen minutes for people to start arriving for a gander. It wouldn’t take long for the place to flood with crowds of onlookers as well as their emergency vehicles.
The garden of number four had been butchered; an attempt having been made to make it seem half-decent before the winter set in. At least someone was making an effort, even if the cuttings were in a pile that would go up in seconds if someone threw a lit match to it.
Flicking on latex gloves and shoe covers for now, she knocked on the door. ‘Hello, police.’
A uniformed officer appeared in the hallway, his hands covered in gloves, too. He was tall, early-twenties, with receding brown hair and a menacing demeanour. Friendly with it, she assumed, by the concern in his eyes.
‘DI Shenton,’ she informed him. ‘Can you give me an update, please?’
‘PC Shanahan, Ma’am. One IC1 female, late teens, and one IC1 male, approximately mid-thirties, both deceased on my arrival. I was walking past when I heard screaming. There are three females in the kitchen. None of them were able to tell me much more than we know.’
That wouldn’t be unusual, Allie mused. Not if they’d witnessed the murders. They would most likely be in shock, even if they’d been involved and were trying to cover their tracks. She had to think of every eventuality.
The first thing to do was to split the three women up, talk to them separately, and under no circumstances treat them as anything other than victims for now.
‘Okay, PC – what’s your first name?’
‘Can you watch the front door, Callum, see that no one gets in or out until the team get here?’
‘Yes, Ma’am.’ He didn’t move. ‘I couldn’t help them. They look as if they’ve been dead for a while.’
Allie motioned with her head to Frankie.
‘Come on, fella.’ Frankie manoeuvred Callum outside. ‘Let’s set up a first point of call. Have you done one before?’
Allie blew out a deep breath and went inside the house. In the kitchen, the crying had subsided, a faint murmuring taking its place. In the living room, there was nothing either of them could do for the victims.
At a glance, Allie could tell that life had been extinct for a few hours.