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Cherringham - Snowblind

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
  3. The Authors
  4. Main Characters
  5. Snowblind
  6. Copyright
  7. 1. A Lovely Night for a Walk
  8. 2. The Blizzard
  9. 3. Spinout
  10. 4. The Morning After
  11. 5. Community Spirit
  12. 6. Home Sweet Home
  13. 7. Lost and Found
  14. 8. Questions in the Woods
  15. 9. Secrets of Broadmead Grange
  16. 10. No Place Like a Home
  17. 11. Suspects
  18. 12. Tea for Two
  19. 13. A Chat in the Church
  20. 14. A Night at Home
  21. 15. A Surprising Discovery
  22. 16. A Lovely Cuppa
  23. 17. It’s The Thought That Counts
  24. 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 Lovely Night for a Walk

Archy Fleming pushed at the branches in his way.

What happened to the path I was on? he wondered.

The night had been so nice! It had been nice, hadn’t it? Maybe a bit chilly. But now, so much colder, and it didn’t seem like such a nice night at all.

He looked down. Was that a path? He couldn’t tell, not with all the broken branches and leaves underfoot. Paths were usually clearer than this, weren’t they? All the people walking on them, going from … going from—

Where did I come from? he wondered. Back there, somewhere?

There were other people there, but though he could see their faces, their smiles, he couldn’t remember any of their names.

Maybe he should turn around? Go back there. But then if this was a path … maybe it led somewhere. Had to lead somewhere.

A village! A place to get warm, a pub! Yes! Has to be a pub ahead. With a roaring fireplace.

He thought of those words: roaring fireplace.

He kept stepping forwards. A thin branch that he hadn’t seen snapped back and slapped him in the face, and it stung. That’s when he noticed that the trees, the path, the leaves on the ground had all turned white!

It’s snowing.

He did something he remembered from long ago.

Archy stuck out his tongue, letting the flakes land on it. First a few, then more, until he could see that this was no gentle snow.

Not just a couple of soft flakes landing on his dry, cracked tongue.

No, this snow was heavy, coming down hard. And though his slippers protected his feet, right at his exposed ankles, the snow landed and stuck.

Already the snow had made the ground disappear.

His thin robe did little now. That robe — a deep mix of dark red-and-blue stripes — also had snow sticking to it.

Roaring fireplace.

And a pint.

Like a pint, I would.

He’d stand by that fireplace, and sip his pint.

In his robe. His slippers. Let all that snow melt away.

As if it hadn’t been snowing at all.

Archy kept walking, his whole body shaking with each step, driven by the idea that ahead, at the end of this now-white trail, there was a village, and a pub, and all he had to do — no matter how cold he felt — was keep on going the way he was going.

He fell, hard, right onto his knees, his now untrustworthy knees, kneeling in the snow, his grey hair covered in the white stuff.

Archy looked around.

Where was the damn path?

It looked like it could go to the right. That looked sort of like a path.

(He remained kneeling. Didn’t want to get up until he knew where he was going.)

Or to the left! Right! There’s a path, narrow, but yes he could see it, the trees with their snow-covered limbs so close, trying to hide it.

No.

Straight ahead was the way. Of course. That was the path. Just need to keep going in the direction he was going.

He looked around for something to grab to help pull himself to a standing position.

A craggy bush nearby. Dried berries still on its branches. He grabbed at a twisted handful of the bush’s branches and pulled, using it to get off one knee.

He had the thought: what if I can’t get up?

What if I end up staying here?

And that thought made Archy’s gnarled hands grab as tight as he could, hold the branches fast, as he struggled to a standing position again.

Then, as if rewarded for his great effort, he stood shivering, shaking and he saw lights ahead. Two lights! There — and then gone.

Then again.

The village!

The pub!

Close now. Close.

And Archy Fleming stumbled ahead, letting branches swipe at his face since he knew he had to go fast, not caring about the painful scratches.

He was close to the village. And all he had to do was keep going straight.

2. The Blizzard

“Getting bad out there, Jack?” Ellie said from behind the bar, looking at the pub’s front windows, to the snowstorm outside.

Jack turned and looked at the near-empty pub. “Where is everybody?”

“Not used to big snowstorms I guess. Everyone getting all cosy at home. Fancy another?”

“No. It really is coming down. I better get back to the Goose.”

Ellie looked at two old men sitting off in a corner. “Think I’d better tell that lot over there to get going as well. Time to close up and head to my own fireplace. They say it’s going to be a real blizzard.”

Jack turned back to her. “Good idea. You know, all that snow outside … reminds me of home. We get storms like this all the time.”

“I’ve heard. So then you’re used to it. Know when to get out the snow-ploughs, salt, right? Not sure how little Cherringham will fare.”

“It’ll be interesting.”

Jack pulled on a cloth cap and buttoned up his pea coat. He had worn his wellies so he’d have no problem walking through the slushy stuff.

But driving? That could be a different story.

“Be safe, Ellie.”

“You bet,” she said, as she stepped out from around the bar and started turning lights off, finally making the two — what would the locals call them? — geezers start moving.

Hope they don’t have far to go, Jack thought.

As the line goes … t’aint a fit night out for man nor beast.

And, as he quickly discovered, not a fit night for his Sprite.

Back in New York, he had driven a big SUV that had no trouble handling ice, snow, rain — whatever.

And though he had put winter tyres on his small sports car, he knew it didn’t have a lot of weight to get through the snowy roads.

As he backed out of the Ploughman’s car park, he could feel those tyres struggling with the snow.

Think I was a bit too cavalier about this, Jack thought.

Back in NYC, he actually liked it when a big storm came. Brought out the best in the people; everyone pulling together. And the way snow could muffle the noisy city, covering it with a white blanket … that was something to see.

But even though he didn’t have far to go to get to his boat, he could tell he’d have to take it nice and slow.

One thing: there didn’t seem to be anyone else on the road.

No ploughs yet.

Everyone hunkering down at home.

A Cherringham blizzard.

He looked forward to getting back to the Grey Goose and enjoying the storm from there …

Jack crossed the river and came to the familiar fork where the main road turned left into a series of curves.

Although, in this storm it didn’t look familiar at all.

On either side, the hedges looked like a line of snowmen; the heavy, wet snow sticking fast.

He had tested the brakes — very easy with a few gentle pumps. No anti-locking brakes on this vintage item. The only way he could make them not lock was by taking it slow.

He remembered an old rule delivered to him by his dad when he faced his first Brooklyn winter as driver.

His father’s brogue always more pronounced when he became excited about a subject.

“Now, Jack — if you ever begin to skid, you gotta remember to turn into the skid, you understand? Into it, then slowly out of it.”

More than once he had forgotten those instructions and nearly sent his first car — a beat-up Ford Pinto — careening towards the sidewalk.

Now, he took the turn smoothly. Just a bit of a slip there, but he could see the tracks made by the few other cars that had passed by.

The road was deserted now though, and his windshield wipers — small, matching the car itself — struggled to keep the wet snow from building up on the windshield.

“Okay,” he said to himself. “Nearly home.”

He reminded himself about how a storm as beautiful and big as this one could, in a heartbeat, turn dangerous.

Considering the state of things, he might end up holed up on the Goose for a few days.

No problem there. Got his martini ingredients, a few steaks in the freezer. Plenty of food for Riley.

“Be just fine,” he said again, liking the way his voice made the silence inside and out less intimidating.

He came to the curve where the fields to the right gave way to woods, a notorious spot which caught many a driver unawares even in the best weather.

Into the curve … so slowly.

When he saw someone, suddenly, a ghost-like figure, covered in the white snow — run out into the road, turning as the Sprite’s headlights caught him in mid-crossing.

The figure frozen, standing there. Eyes wide.

Leaving Jack with no option other than to hit the brakes hard and turn the steering wheel.

3. Spinout

And just as his father might have predicted, the Sprite began a crazy skid. Instead of turning to the right and slowing, the combination of that turn and the hitting of the brakes sent the small car spinning.

A three-sixty.

Something Jack hadn’t experienced in nearly forty years.

The car had no control. Jack gently pumped the brake hoping to get it to slow even as it twirled around once, then again.

For all he knew, whoever the crazy person in the middle of the road was … was still there, and the car would go flying at him like a pinwheel.

Jack’s stomach tightened. He hated not being in control.

And this was a lot like being helpless.

But then he saw that, on the second full-circle spin, the Sprite was now sliding to the left, into the snowy hedges. Then there was a heavy bump as the tyres sank into a roadside rut.

And that rut, catching the two left tyres, at least had the effect — jarring as it was — of stopping the car.

The whole wild manoeuvre was in slow motion so Jack hadn’t been thrown forward, smashing into the windshield or the steering wheel.

He looked right, trying to see the road, searching for the ghostly figure he had almost driven into.

But the side window had a coating of snow, blocking the view.

He rolled down the window, letting that coating fall into the driver’s seat.

But at least he could now see the road. Deserted, as if there never had been a figure at all.

Jack opened the door of the car, and got out. Snow blew sideways, nasty stuff as if trying to sneak its way into any crack in the protection offered by his coat.

Easily six or seven inches on the ground already, and still coming down thick.

“Hello!” Jack yelled.

Where was the guy who had been standing in the road?

Jack hadn’t gotten a good look at him, just a glance before his turning, braking.

Now — he could see the snowy circle made by the spinning car.

But there was no one there.

Jack had one thankful thought: least I didn’t hit him.

Because if he had hit the man, the body would be lying just in front of that circle on the road.

But what was the guy doing here, running across the road?

“Hey!” he yelled.

The figure looked as if it had come from the woods ahead.

Maybe he had gone back there?

Jack started walking in that direction.

“Hey … you … you okay?”

He had competition from the wind now, whistling in his ears, and probably doing a good job of muffling his yells.

“Hello! … Where are you?”

No footpath into the woods. How’d the guy come through there, pushing his way past branches, bushes?

More like he was lost.

Deeper into the woods, and Jack realised that the guy could have gone anywhere, any direction.

He stopped, did a slow turn. And outside of the whistle of the wind, and the steady falling snow, he saw and heard nothing.

Whoever it was … .he thought … let’s hope he ran back where he came from.

You wouldn’t last long out here. Not in this.

He sniffed the air, then pulled his jacket collar tight to try and stop the invading snow, and walked back to the Sprite.

Getting the car out of the rut wasn’t easy. He had to make it rock back and forth, all the time hearing the exposed rocky dirt grind against the undercarriage of the car.

Going to need some work after this.

But then, with one final thrust forward, the Sprite’s left rear tyre got some traction and pushed the car out of the rut, back on to the road.

And as he drove the last few minutes to his boat, he kept thinking of the man who had appeared on the road, and then vanished.

He’d call Alan to alert him — and any of the crews out tonight — to keep a lookout.

But hopefully the crazy guy was already back inside his home — wherever that might be — ready to sleep it off, safe and warm.

He pulled the car in as close to the river as he could, guessing that he wouldn’t be using it for a while. He could check for damage in the morning.

Then — he heard Riley barking inside.

Maybe the dog could tell that something was up outside; the storm, the wind, the snow.

Or maybe he just wanted a walk.

“Coming, boy,” Jack called, hurrying from the car and up the ramp to the Grey Goose.

Riley was standing by the door, tail wagging wildly, as Jack opened it.

“Thought I was lost out there? Guess you might need a bit of walk?”

Riley knew that word and responded with an affirmative bark.

No need for a leash, and Jack led the way back down the boat ramp again as Riley bounded ahead.

Doubtful he’d want to stay out here for long.

In minutes, they were both back inside.

“Yes, Alan, the guy just stood there. Didn’t get a good look at him. And when I got out, he was gone.”

“Right. That is strange, Jack. Night like this, God.”

“I did a bit of a search for him. Couldn’t see or hear anything.”

“Okay.

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