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Cherringham - A Fatal Fall

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
  3. The Authors
  4. Main Characters
  5. A Fatal Fall
  6. Copyright
  7. 1. A Step in the Dark
  8. 2. A Hard Frost
  9. 3. The Official Story
  10. 4. Dylan McCabe and Gary Sparks
  11. 5. The Site of the Accident
  12. 6. Breaking the Ice
  13. 7. Of Mates and Secrets
  14. 8. A Favour
  15. 9. Unwelcome Visitors
  16. 10. A Family Man
  17. 11. Secret Lives
  18. 12. A Small Break-in
  19. 13. What the Record Shows
  20. 14. A Winter’s Morning
  21. 15. One Step Forward
  22. 16. The Mystery Girl
  23. 17. Truth and Lies
  24. 18. Drinks with the Boss
  25. 19. Merry Christmas!
  26. Next episode

Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series

“Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series” is a series made up of self-contained stories. A new episode is released each month. The series is published in English as well as in German, and is only available in e-book form.

The Authors

Matthew Costello (US-based) is the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011), Home (2014) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was adapted by Lionsgate as a major motion picture. He has written for The Disney Channel, BBC, SyFy and has also designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Neil Richards has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.
His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together. Cherringham is their first crime fiction as co-writers.

Main Characters

Jack Brennan is a former NYPD homicide detective who lost his wife a year ago. Being retired, all he wants is peace and quiet. Which is what he hopes to find in the quiet town of Cherringham, UK. Living on a canal boat, he enjoys his solitude. But soon enough he discovers that something is missing — the challenge of solving crimes. Surprisingly, Cherringham can help him with that.

Sarah Edwards is a web designer who was living in London with her husband and two kids. Two years ago, he ran off with his sexy American boss, and Sarah’s world fell apart. With her children she moved back to her home town, laid-back Cherringham. But the small town atmosphere is killing her all over again — nothing ever happens. At least, that’s what she thinks until Jack enters her life and changes it for good or worse …

1. A Step in the Dark

Dylan McCabe spun the wheel of the mini-dumper truck and reversed out of the frozen mud onto the gravel track. He could hear the wheels crunching shards of ice on the hard ground.

Jeez, is this weather never going to end? he thought. This has to be the coldest bloody village in England.

He looked across at Kyle and Scotty who were already shovelling the sand he’d just tipped straight into the cement mixer.

“What time you make it lads?”

“Time for one more load, you lazy sod, Dylan,” said Kyle, not looking up.

“Not if I can help it,” said Dylan. “Sure it must be nearly four already.”

“Brickies are clocking off at four-thirty, done a deal with Gary,” said Scotty.

“So we have to work late without a deal, eh?” said Dylan. “Lucky us. I tell you lads — we gotta organise if we don’t want to get shafted all the time.”

“Don’t give me a hard time Dylan, I need the work.”

“Hey — we all need the work, just that some of us don’t like to have it shoved up our—”

But Scotty and Kyle weren’t listening.

Dylan watched them head over to the big pile of bricks in front of the half-finished house, their backs to him now as they picked and sorted for the brickies up on the scaffold.

He shook his head. Was a time when you could have a bit of banter on sites, laugh with your mates. These days it was all — do this, get this, don’t answer back, and jump when I say jump …

And this week was worse than ever. Word had come down from the Almighty that they were a week behind and they’d have to hit every Saturday until Christmas if they were to get their bonuses.

Bonuses? So what? Fifty quid cash in hand so’s you can doff your cap and act grateful?

He reached into his pocket and took out his baccy tin, started to roll up a quick one. Ten seconds later he had it in his mouth and lit.

One of the few advantages of taking up smoking at twelve years old, Dylan my son, he thought to himself. Can do a roll up one-handed and blindfolded.

He looked around in case Gary, the site supervisor, was lurking.

Don’t want to get caught having a fag, with that bastard itching to kick me off the site.

But then he relaxed. Gary would be in the warm site office at this hour, working on his spreadsheets, calculating just how hard he could work his band of not-so-merry men …

Dylan leaned back in the bucket seat, tipped his hard hat, pulled his jacket tight around his neck and puffed on his roll-up. He knew from experience just how long he could sit here before some primeval instinct in his foreman’s brain would kick in as the silence from the dumper truck began to register.

He looked around. Five new-build houses sprouting in a sea of rock-hard mud and ice. And dotted among them a couple of old cherry trees, a crab apple, a dying willow.

Shame. Even on a miserable cold day like today, he guessed that once upon a time this must have been a pretty garden attached to a big house. But these days who wants a pretty garden? Much better to tear down the old houses, put up new ones, make an obscene amount of cash.

Three months he’d been here, scratching around to put a few hundred quid together. Another month or so and the job would be done. The concrete was long ago poured, and the walls of all the houses were going up at some lick.

Brickies hard at work on each one, racing each other, racing to get to the next job, and then the next.

Too fast really. People were cutting corners. Leaving piles of rubbish around. Building crap spread all over the site. Dangerous.

Still, at this rate, in just a few more weeks they’d be working inside the houses under cover, out of this damned English weather.

He felt sleet on his face.

Oh, just what we need, he thought. Sleet on top of ice.

Ah well, look on the bright side. It was Friday. And he had a cracker of an evening planned.

First off, a few beers down the Ploughman’s with the lads. Nice bit of craic. They were good lads — mostly — and you couldn’t finish the week without sharing a pint your mates, now could you?

Then back to the caravan for a shower, slip into the old sexy jeans … Tidy the back of the Love Machine — clear out them shovels and that dodgy jenny which Ray had liberated from the site — and chuck in a duvet and pillows.

Nothing beats a Ford Transit for a cosy love-nest on a cold night.

Then meet up with the special lady herself and bag a couple more drinks at the Angel followed by a Chicken Tikka Masala at the Taj over in Chippenham.

Then — let’s skip dessert, shall we? — and off up into the woods in the Love Machine, crank up some good sounds then jump in the back for a couple of home-grown smokes and a bit of how’s your father.

Dylan my old son, you’ve landed on your feet at long last.

He flicked his roll-up into the mud, then started up the engine of the dumper and roared off towards the sand pile to pick up one last load for the day.

*

It was dark by the time Dylan locked up the truck and headed over to the office to clock off — a big cabin parked up in one corner of the site.

As he climbed the steps, the door opened and he saw a bunch of the lads bundling out.

“Mine’s a pint of Guinness, fellas,” he said, stepping back. “I’ll be right behind you—”

“You better had be, Dylan, it’s your effin’ round pal!”

“No way Jimbo, you sly beggar — you owe me from Tuesday. Get me a bag of nuts too, will yous?”

Dylan watched them heading off to the site gate, then he turned and entered the office, taking in the familiar smell of stale sweat, wet socks, old food, and off milk. It was the same smell in every building site he’d ever worked on. And that was a few …

He saw Gary Sparks at the desk, head bent over a laptop.

“All right boss?” he said making his voice cheery, though in fact he hated Gary Sparks.

And he knew Gary Sparks hated him. But he hadn’t put a foot wrong on this site and they both knew it. They also both knew that Dylan got the job done too.

But Dylan’s talk of organising — standing up for the poor bastards who work here — wasn’t popular.

Always some snitch who liked blabbing to the boss.

But, so as long as they were all under the cosh like they had been these last two weeks, Dylan was confident he still had a job come Monday.

Dylan took off his hard hat and stepped towards the door which led into the mess room.

“McCabe,” said Sparks. “Not so fast.”

Dylan turned. This didn’t sound good.

Had someone shopped him and Ray for the generator they’d liberated?

He watched Sparks carefully.

“Got a job needs doing,” said Sparks.

“What? You’re kidding me?”

“Tilers are coming into Number 3 at crack of. So I need tiles stacked and ready.”

“Hey, it’s nearly five now, boss. I’ve already done overtime.”

“So you’re doing some more. Get used to it.”

“Why me?”

“Look around. See anyone else? If you’d been a bit sharper you’d be gone too. But you’re not, are you?” The supervisor grinned. “So I guess you’re stuck McCabe …”

“Come on. It’s bloody Friday.”

“Big deal.”

“What if I say no?”

“Oh. No worries. You can simply pick up your cards and off you go.”

Dylan knew he had no choice. He needed the money — on all fronts. He’d hit a bad run on the poker nights and he was in deeper than he’d like to some nasty fellas from London. And he even owed a couple of the lads here big time.

And having a proper girlfriend was pricey. That, and maybe a little too much of the local home-grown.

He knew that if he told Sparks to shove it he’d never get another job now, not just a couple of weeks from Christmas.

Sparks had him over a barrel and he knew it.

He looked at the site supervisor. The man looked back at him, a smug smile on his face.

Know what I’d like to do to that mug …

Dylan knew he was enjoying this.

Bastard.

He put his hard hat back on and headed out into the cold.

*

Dylan stood up straight, his back aching. He looked up at the scaffold. He’d been up that ladder twenty times already, stacking tiles all the way round the half-finished house.

Just one more load, then he’d be done.

It’ll have to be a swift one down the pub, no time for more, he thought.

He heard a sound from the other side of the house. Like someone had tripped and kicked a can or something.

Funny. There was nobody else working out here now at nearly six.

Maybe it was Sparks, coming to see what he was up to?

He peered into the darkness by the side of the house. All kinds of shapes, but nothing moving.

At least the sleet had stopped.

He looked across at the office on the far side of the site. Through the window he could just see the neon lights still on. Sparks must still be in there. Screwing the workers out of their proper overtime payments no doubt.

He stood still for a moment, silent, listening. Nothing.

Fox maybe? he thought. No big deal.

He reached down and lifted the pile of tiles onto his shoulders, then headed for the ladder again.

As the sun had set the temperature had plummeted and Dylan saw how the ladder glistened white with slippery frost in the light.

He was going to have to be careful.

Scaffolding was a death trap in this kind of weather.

No way he should be out here on his own at this time of night — even in daylight this was a job for two people. That’s what the rules were there for. Should have someone at his side looking out, checking, watching. Helping.

Bloody Sparks, cheapskate, always looking to save money, cutting corners; risking people’s lives.

Still, an hour’s overtime was worth at least a tenner. Nearly enough to cover the weed he’d picked up from Terry last night …

Wouldn’t mind a smoke of that now, he thought, as he climbed the ladder to the top of the scaffold. And then he imagined lighting one up later in the back of the Love Machine, him and the girl all wrapped up together under the duvet.

Yeah. Bring it on, he thought.

He stepped out onto the scaffold, hoisted the tiles carefully on his shoulder and started to walk around the house.

His breath billowed white in the bright arc light’s glow. He could feel the old timbers slippery under his boots.

Careful now Dylan, he thought, there’s a pretty girl waiting for what you’ve got to offer tonight, now don’t go spoiling things …

He rounded the corner of the building. This side was darker, the arc light not reaching here.

But he knew what he was doing. He’d been walking back and forth along this section for the last hour.

Still — needed to stay focused. Rush, and that was a quick way to an accident.

Round the corner again now, the back of the house in almost total darkness.

Just a few more steps on the wet black timber, then he could see where the pile needed to go.

Here we are …

He took his hand off the scaffold rail and grabbed hold of the tiles on his shoulder to swing them round and place them on the ground, and stepped forward …

… into nothing.

Into space. Emptiness.

He felt — his leg disappearing down, and his body falling forward, following it.

A jolt of panic rushed upwards in his gut.

He flailed his hands wildly, trying to catch hold of something — rails, timber, wall, anything — but there was nothing there.

He somersaulted and, for a moment, had a clear and vivid memory of falling out of that apple tree on nana’s farm out beyond Waterford.

Shit, I’d better pray—

But Dylan had no time left to pray.

2. A Hard Frost

Jack crossed the meadow in the bright morning sunshine, with Riley — for once — at his heels.

The Springer was tired out after a long walk.

Looking forward to breakfast, like I am, thought Jack, planting his boots carefully on the ice-hardened path.

He’d woken at dawn, and the minute he’d seen the blue sky and the hard frost after all the sleet and freezing rain of the previous week, he knew it was time for him and Riley to get out for some air.

They’d been going stir-crazy on the Grey Goose, emerging only every couple of days to drive into Cherringham and pick up groceries.

A New York winter could be tough, the piles of snow, the icy winds cutting through the canyons of streets and avenues.

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