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Cherringham - Death on a Summer Night

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
  3. The Authors
  4. Main Characters
  5. Death on a Summer Night
  6. Copyright
  7. 1. Cherringham — 1989
  8. 2. The Wrong Way Home
  9. 3. Twenty-Five Years Later
  10. 4. A Killer Returns
  11. 5. A Sleepless Night
  12. 6. Lost Years
  13. 7. Fresh Air
  14. 8. A Cold Heart
  15. 9. Reunion at the Angel
  16. 10. A Deadly Threat
  17. 11. The Conductor
  18. 12. Ghost Train
  19. 13. Kingfisher Lake
  20. 14. Secrets of the Lake
  21. 15. Into the Deep
  22. 16. On the Bottom
  23. 17. Fireworks
  24. 18. Amends

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. Cherringham — 1989

Tim stopped the car, the beaten-up old Fiesta that he always bragged about keeping running and on the road.

“Going to have my own shop someday,” he’d say.

His future always so clear to him.

But now the car’s windows were broken and jammed shut with rolled up bits of cigarette packet. And on this record-breaking night the air felt stifling to the girl sitting next to him. For Dinah Taylor, it was almost too hard to breathe.

He had pulled off the road, in a parking area where she guessed he might have brought other girls.

She wasn’t naive enough to believe that she was the first girl he’d driven up here.

Not quite the same great view of Cherringham you’d get from Mabb’s Hill; but despite that she could still see the fairground in the field down by the river, the rides lit up, flashes of red and yellow bright against the night sky.

Drifting up from the fair she could hear music.

Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” …

Dinah loved that track so much.

I could be down there now with Jen and Michelle, on the Dodgems, singing along, she thought.

“Ooh, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love …”

Screaming and laughing with the girls in all that noise. Instead of being up here with Tim Bell.

This place was quiet.

Secluded.

Just the two of them.

On their own.

And Dinah could tell that Tim had been drinking.

She had even said to him … maybe they should stay at the fair, not drive off somewhere?

But Tim couldn’t be put off.

“Great night to be out, just driving around,” he said.

Driving around and melting was more like it, Dinah thought.

Now, with the car stopped, Tim draped an arm around her.

Of course. Why else would he come here? No one around. A place to snog. But while Tim might have a lot of experience in that area, Dinah certainly didn’t.

And now the question became for her … how do I get myself out of this?

His hand tightened on her shoulder, touching bare skin, her summer dress sleeveless. Despite the oppressive heat, she wished she had something more on.

But when she threw off his hand, Tim only redoubled his efforts. His hand right back, tight there, pulling her close … and now, his head leaning into her.

The smell of beer — maybe even whiskey — on his breath.

She definitely had to end this.

“Tim. I think we should go back.”

“Back? God, Dinah. What do we want to do that for? Lousy fair, been on all the rides, done that. It’s beautiful here. You’re beautiful.”

He had his eyes locked on hers, and then went to kiss her on the lips, just as she turned away.

It’s not that she wasn’t attracted to him.

Far from it, but … they barely knew each other. There was a matter of respect.

That old expression.

I’m not that kind of girl.

But when she pulled away again as he tried to hug her close …

“Hey, what the hell’s wrong?”

Tim’s eyes now looked glassy, even in the dark of the car, only the dashboard lights on, just a hint of reflection hitting them.

Drinking for sure, but had there been other things? Something else, some … drug that someone had given him? She thought back to the fair: that bloke who worked the ghost train, with the leather jacket and the long hair. The one who’d been giving her the eye.

Maybe him?

He and Tim seemed to know each other. Talking and laughing together while she and the girls went on the big wheel.

She didn’t like people doing drugs. A lot of her friends “experimented.” None of that for her. The only experiments she would ever do took place in the school chemistry lab.

Then a shift in Tim …

“What is it? I’m not good enough for you? That it? Then why … why the bloody hell did you come out with me tonight?”

The air in the car felt even closer — as if there was no fresh air at all to be had outside. These past days had been so steamy, so hot, the humidity worse than she’d ever known.

And now Tim turned sullen, even angry.

“I—I just wanted to go out, have fun. With everyone. Didn’t think—”

“Didn’t think — what? That you and me’d end up here, that maybe I’d like a bloody kiss?” He leaned closer, the boozy smell strong … “Or even something more?”

At that moment he grinned, and put his hand on her leg, just where the material of her skirt — maybe too short? — met bare skin.

She yelped. Then: “Stop. Just stop it, Tim!”

“Or what? You gonna do what? Long walk back to the village you know.”

She pushed his hand away but he grabbed her wrist, so she slapped him, her nails catching his cheek, making it bleed.

He pulled back for a second, dabbed at his face

And that was her chance.

She reached down, popped open the door, and literally tumbled out of the passenger seat, scraping her shin as she fell.

Tim fell across the seat with her quick exit.

“Hey, Dinah? Bloody hell — where you going? Get back in here!”

But Dinah quickly got her footing and looked around for a path, a trail, somewhere she could go — that Tim couldn’t follow her in the car.

Not that she thought he’d actually hurt her. But if he was on … something, added to the alcohol … anything could happen.

She had to get away.

She saw what looked like a footpath leading out of the parking area, up a small hill to a thick squat tree, full with leaves, nearly blended into the dark sky.

But the spots where the tree blotted out stars showed its outline.

She scrambled up the path, now moving faster, turning around once to see Tim struggling to get out of the car, then looking around for her.

She had — in those moments — disappeared in the night, just like the tree up ahead.

As she followed the rutted path, she didn’t think about how far away they were, or how late it was, or what her father and mother would say when she finally got home.

Her parents had always been so clear about one thing.

If you are in bad situation, do what you must to get away.

And that’s precisely what she had done.

Now the path led up the hill, through shrubs and gorse to the tree … where she imagined that she might just be visible from down below.

That is, if drunken Tim looked up here.

She didn’t look back again. Not until she reached the very top of the hill and could lean against the big, ancient tree, hidden, breathing heavily.

Giving herself a few minutes before she could figure out what to do next.

2. The Wrong Way Home

The man drove slowly.

Night, and everyone was asleep.

Well, maybe not everyone.

Must still be people in the cottages awake, night owls, or maybe an upset stomach, bit of insomnia; a screaming baby who wouldn’t be soothed.

He imagined other things that might be going on in the middle of the night, behind the quiet walls of the quaint cottages and the little houses.

He liked thinking about those things as he drove around the roads that girded Cherringham and nearby villages.

Once he had been stopped by the police. Apparently there had been an accident, a hit-and-run driver who banged into someone’s Land Rover parked on the side of the road.

The police quickly saw that his own Vauxhall was pristine.

“Not a mark on her,” the man said. Then, as if an explanation was needed for the young cop who didn’t seem particularly interested … “Just out for a night drive, officer. Trouble sleeping,” the man had said with a smile.

That was all that was needed.

And he was on his way, back to his strange night odyssey as if his circling the village, the river, navigating the roads surrounding it all … were ropes ready to be tightened.

Because, in his mind, that’s certainly what it felt like.

It’s why he found this so exciting. As if expecting things to happen.

That some night … something would happen.

It was …

such a powerful word …

inevitable.

*

Dinah kept her eyes locked on the path she had taken, the area below, the car in the distance still sitting there at the side of the road.

Every now and then she heard Tim scrambling about in the bushes and the gorse, shouting … “Dinah! Dinah — where the hell are you?”

That only made her heart race more. He could easily storm up here, find her.

Was he angry enough to actually hurt her?

He never seemed that type before.

But out here, so late, so dark … she didn’t know what to think.

Which is when she turned around.

On the other side of this hill, the footpath continued down, meandering its way through some woods and a field.

And beyond that field she saw a black strip — a road — where just now a pair of lights snaked their way … a car which seemed to be heading to Cherringham.

Not the road she and Tim had been on.

But maybe she could go there, make her way back on foot, or even, possibly …

get a ride.

She could hear an echo of her father’s warnings. About rides.

But all her friends took rides. After all, this was the sleepy Cotswolds.

Just about as safe a place as there could be.

And in a few minutes she’d be back in the village, not so late that her parents would be angry — or suspicious. She’d want to keep from them what had happened this evening with Tim.

Who knows?

She might not want to cross him off her list.

Maybe if he apologized. If he promised not to do it again.

And if no car came, she could walk as fast as she could, back to the village, back home.

Safe and sound.

*

The man drove so slowly — no rush, no place to race to.

And as he took a curve, he happened to look left, to the hill, the very top of the hill just visible above the line of hedges.

And as his car rolled slowly past in the dead of night — moonless, so dark — he saw someone walking down.

With the practised eyes of somebody who was often out at night, often looking down dark streets, at dark houses, he could tell it was a woman.

So when he came to a junction in the road he slowed, and …

… as if simply performing a quick turn-around, as if it was time to get back to the village, done for the night …

The man turned the car around.

And his car now headed slowly back to the hill, perfectly timed to meet the figure making its way down.

*

Dinah saw the car.

It was coming down the road, heading her way, back to Cherringham!

It would be so good if she could get a ride instead of doing that long walk back, making her so late.

She even had the thought that maybe she had been too hasty in leaving Tim. Maybe he would have stopped grabbing at her, driven her back home. Perhaps running away like that had been silly.

But — she could still feel that terrible feeling of being trapped in his car, stranded out in the dark, pulled off the main road.

She hurried now so she could get to the side of the road as the car, moving slowly, came close.

And of course — she reminded herself — she’d have to be careful.

Just can’t take a ride with anyone.

Have to get a look at them. That is, if they did stop.

In her hurrying, Dinah lost her balance on the bumpy, rocky trail, and fell hard against a gorse-covered rock.

She staggered to her feet, tried to ignore the pain from her knee, and found the path again.

All that hurrying had made her sweat. She felt the beads on her brow, her upper lip. No coolness in the night air, and sweat also built up on her swinging bare arms as she raced down.

Racing to get to the side of the road, to face the twin headlights of the oncoming car.

Funny. It was going so slowly. She raised a hand, waved.

The car slowed even more.

Then — right beside her — stopped.

*

The man had his eyes on the young girl — for that’s what she was — standing at the side of the road, waving.

Out here, all alone, so late.

How do such things happen?

And as he brought the car to a stop, his hands gripping tightly on the steering wheel, he realized he knew her.

He put a smile on his face, freed one hand from its lock on the steering wheel, and rolled down the window.

*

Cautious, Dinah thought.

Again she reminded herself: you don’t just take a ride from anyone.

But with the window being rolled down, and seeing the man’s face catching the glare of the headlights bouncing off her dress, she realized she knew him, recognised him from the village.

Didn’t actually know him by name; but someone she saw in the shops, or at church on the big holidays.

She began to breathe easier.

“Hey,” he said, his voice gentle … even sounding concerned, she thought … “Are you lost? Out here on your own?”

Dinah looked back at the trail that she had taken.

“No, I, er, was with someone. Some stupid boy.”

“You’ve cut yourself,” said the man, nodding to her leg. She looked down, and saw that her dress was torn and her knee was bleeding from her fall.

Then hoping it would be enough explanation, she added: “We had a ...

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