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Cherringham - The Song Never Dies

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Cherringham - A Cosy Crime Series
  3. About the Book
  4. The Authors
  5. Main Characters
  6. The Song Never Dies
  7. Copyright
  8. 1. Old Friends
  9. 2. Just a Little Get-together
  10. 3. Party On
  11. 4. A Candle in the Wind
  12. 5. A Suspicious Mind
  13. 6. The Leader of the Band
  14. 7. The Party’s Over
  15. 8. The Song Not the Singer
  16. 9. An Old-Fashioned Interview
  17. 10. The Drummer’s Wife
  18. 11. Liar, Liars ….
  19. 12. Not quite the Spotted Pig
  20. 13. Serious Business
  21. 14. Twenty Percent
  22. 15. Home Movies
  23. 16. Love Never Dies
  24. 17. While the Band Plays On
  25. 18. A Killer Duet
  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.

About the Book

When Alex King, leader of legendary 90s rock group Lizard, hosts a party to get the band back together, old grudges surface. At dawn Alex is found floating in the pool of his Cherringham mansion.

To the police it’s a drug-fueled accident. But when Jack and Sarah get involved, they quickly discover that while a song may never die — the person, who wrote it, might have been murdered.

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. Old Friends

Lauren Dumford checked her makeup in the passenger mirror one last time. She didn’t usually make a fuss, but this evening was special.

“Just keep the bloody car steady, Will,” she said, leaning in as close as she could to the mirror to reapply her lipstick. “How am I supposed to do this if you’re bouncing all over the road?

“You should have done it back at the house,” said Will. “You can’t expect me to drive smoothly on a track like this. And find the bloody party, too.”

Lauren glanced at her husband as he drove. He wore jeans and trainers and an old shirt that she knew was his barbecue special.

Palm trees and Hawaiian dancing girls.

His idea of dressing up.

God help me, she thought. Why can’t he ever make the effort?

Whereas Lauren had gone into Oxford first thing, to have her hair and nails done, and then spent most of the afternoon with her sister Janet, getting her outfit right.

Trying on everything. Then trying it on again.

It’s got to look cool and sophisticated and casual and totally effortless, she’d said to Janet.

Not the usual blouse and black trousers she wore when they went out for dinner.

Not that even going out to dinner happens much these days, she thought.

Hard to imagine all those years ago when she and Will hardly got to bed before dawn most nights of the week.

But that … that was a different life.

Before the band broke up.

Before kids came along.

And before normal life — the kind of life that most people in Cherringham lived — resumed.

Paying the mortgage, mowing the lawn, Tesco’s, school runs, dreary summer holidays on rainy English beaches …

She wiped her mouth with a tissue, folded the mirror back, and watched the countryside go by through the side window.

The little lane they were driving down, in their beaten up old Vauxhall Zafira, was lined with dry stone walls. Open meadows dotted with oaks lay on either side. Lauren could see sheep and tiny white lambs huddled under the oaks, the low sun making the grass glow orange.

So beautiful.

She’d lived in Cherringham all her life, but couldn’t recall ever coming down here.

But then why would she? This was a private road and as far as she knew there was only one house at the end of it.

Kingfishers.

Once upon a time the discrete home of the Member of Parliament for the whole area.

Now the country mansion and residence of Alex King — Cherringham’s one and only former rock idol, lead singer of one-time monster group Lizard, and now prodigal son returned from Los Angeles.

How the other half lives, she thought.

A far cry from Lauren and Will’s detached house with its built-in double garage on the ‘nice’ estate up by Cherringham cricket club.

Funny how life never goes quite how you expect, she thought.

Back in the 90s if she’d ever given a minute’s thought to the future, this was exactly the kind of life she’d assumed she would have.

And why not? She was a big part of the Lizard family. The classic rock girlfriend, always on tour, on the road, playing Sydney, LA, New York, Wembley, the albums coming out once a year, unstoppable, massive fan-base …

Money no object — private jets, big hotels, clothes, limitless cash.

And of course, turning a blind eye to the groupies that popped up at every tour stop.

Here tonight and gone by sunrise.

Then one day — out of nowhere — meltdown. Arguments. Fights. Cancelled gigs. Lawsuits.

And as easy as turning off the garden tap — the whole thing stopped.

Lizard broke up.

Leaving her and Will washed up and in debt.

Where did that money go? Surely some of it should have come their way?

She still wondered.

But Will — her lovable but dopy drummer boyfriend — could never tell her.

And the other guys had split before she could ask.

There’s no family breakdown quite like a rock family breakdown, she thought.

“I feel a bit nervous,” she said — as much to herself as to Will.

“What is there to be bloody nervous about?” said Will, edging the car carefully round a tight bend. “It’ll just be Alex — and the rest of the band. Old mates — back together again.”

“It’s a party,” said Lauren. “There’s bound to be other people.”

“No need to talk to them,” said Will. “Anyway, we’re just showing our faces, aren’t we? Getting the lie of the land. Seeing what the deal is.”

“If there’s a deal,” she said.

“God, Lauren, let’s not start that again—”

“All right, all right. It’s just I feel …”

But Lauren didn’t know how she really felt.

She just knew she felt poor. And old. And tired.

“We need this — remember?” said Will, slowing down. “Anyway — we’re here. Show time!”

Ahead, Lauren could see the lane ended abruptly at a pair of tall, black iron gates, with a high wall on either side.

Show time indeed …

*

Lauren took in the security cameras, the white heavy chain link, the gravel, the embossed metal sign — Kingfishers — the words scrolled, with beautiful kingfishers flying through the letters.

Magically the gates opened as they approached and Will carried on driving into the estate.

She could see the house, a mansion really, just a couple of hundred yards ahead, nestled in a fold in the meadows. It looked like a massive children’s toy house — a big door in the middle at the front with pillars holding up the porch, two pairs of giant windows either side and six windows above.

All those bedrooms …

“Bloody hell,” said Will. “Look at this! Maybe I should have stayed in the game.”

Maybe you should have, thought Lauren. And maybe I should have made some other choices too …

As they drove toward the house a man in a dark suit and sunglasses gestured them to take a gravel road that curved away to the back, where Lauren spotted more outbuildings and tall walls.

Will indicated and turned.

When they got to a big courtyard at the rear of the house, another man pointed to a paddock by some stables. Lauren saw a field already dotted with big black SUVs and shiny coloured sports cars.

“All these people …” said Lauren.

Will pulled up next to a red Mercedes and turned off the engine.

“Ready?” he said — and she watched him climb out before she could answer.

Lauren checked herself one last time in the mirror, grabbed her new sequined handbag, pulled her long black dress up away from her heels and climbed out.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she said to herself.

She watched a young couple get out of the Mercedes. The guy slick in a t-shirt and silk suit. The girl wearing a silver mini-skirt, clunky shoes, and nothing else.

The couple smiled at her.

“Great night for a bash,” said the guy, his eyes twinkling.

“Isn’t it?” said Lauren. She watched the guy put his arm around the girl and walk her toward the house.

She saw his hand resting lightly on the girl’s slim, bronzed lower back. His wristwatch, silver, chunky.

Will walked round the car and joined her. She could see his stomach bulging against the Hawaiian dancers and palm trees on his shirt.

“I hate this car,” she said.

“Can’t beat a Vauxhall,” said Will. “All these airbags keep the kids safe. It’s the right car for us, trust me.”

Maybe that’s the trouble, thought Lauren. I do trust you. Too much.

And she followed him towards the house.

2. Just a Little Get-together

“Babes — look at you.”

Lauren felt herself flush as Alex King kissed her on both cheeks then stood back and stared into her eyes.

He was tanned and his bronzed face seemed to glow.

No lines after all these years, she thought. Has he had a face job?

Must have.

But then he always had looked ten years younger than the rest of the band.

Tonight, standing there with a big smile, his long black hair looking perfect, wearing a crisp, tailored white shirt, tight jeans, cowboy boots — it should look so 80s but somehow he carried it off.

And underneath, she wondered — that same lean body …?

“Alex,” she said. “Long time.”

She hadn’t expected him to be at the door greeting every guest, so she hadn’t had a second to prepare what she was going to say.

But here — now — in this grand marble reception room, with spiral staircases and tall portraits, and beautiful people all drinking champagne and looking so at ease, so relaxed, she felt her mind go blank.

“Lauren, you haven’t changed a bit,” he said. “Still as beautiful and as sexy as ever.”

“I always said you should bottle that charm and sell it,” said Lauren, recovering her wits.

“Ah, the one girl I could never fool,” said Alex laughing. “I must introduce you to everybody.”

“Hope you don’t use that line as the intro,” said Lauren. “The girl who can’t be fooled?”

“How about — let me introduce my beautiful and very dear old friend Lauren, wife of the best drummer I ever played with, the legendary Will Dumford?”

Lauren watched him turn to Will and give him a man hug. Will looked uncomfortable.

“Don’t recall us ever hugging like that, mate,” said Will wiping his damp brow. “Even when we were pissed.”

“Times change Will,” said Alex. “Gotta be in touch with your softer side.”

“And you can’t miss Will’s softer side,” said Lauren nodding to the Hawaiian dancing girls.

Will rolled his eyes.

And she did have to wonder … why did she always mock him when they were out in a crowd?

She felt a pang of guilt: she knew how much it hurt him.

“I thought you said this was going to be low-key, Alex” said Will.

“It’s rock and roll, Will. No such thing as low-key, now is there?”

“You said.”

Lauren saw Alex frown. Will sounded like a whiny teenager. No — a grumpy old man, that was it.

She hadn’t really noticed that before.

“Tell you what mate, head out back to the bar. Chris is there. He can’t wait to see you.”

Chris? Here already?

And Lauren felt something she hadn’t felt in quite a while.

And what was that?

Interest?

Chris Wickes, the bass player back in the day. All angsty and troubled.

But she always felt that Chris was the brains of the band — while Alex was the beauty.

So this is for real, she thought. The band getting back together …

“I knew you’d get Chris. Didn’t I say that, love?” said Will, turning to her.

“You did, love.”

Trying to make amends …

“He’s still on the circuit, isn’t he? Gigs here and there. So he was bound to come,” said Will.

Then he turned back to Alex, his expression almost challenging: “But what about Nick? You get Nick?”

Lauren saw Alex’s face — unmoved, but the light gone from the eyes.

“Time will tell. Nick’s not here yet. But he said he’s coming.”

“We can’t do it without him, Alex. You know that.”

Lauren noticed Will’s face getting pink. He was sweating.

“Will, don’t worry. He’ll show. I promise. Bygones and all that jazz, hmm? Plus a lot of money on the table to just walk.”

Will’s face scrunched up as if he was going to start an argument — then Lauren saw him pull back as if he realised he might be making a scene.

“Okay. That’s great, Alex,” he said. “Great. Trust you, you know. Always have.”

Alex’s smile returned, full-force. “Su-per. You go find Chris. Grab yourself a beer — catch up on the good old days, hmm?”

“Yes, yes. I will,” said Will. Then he turned to her: “You all right then love, if I go do that?”

“It’s a party, Will. You don’t have to ask permission to get a drink.”

She saw Will blink and smile, then he turned and threaded his way through the crowd into the next room.

And she thought: I might have house-trained him too much.

“Come on,” said Alex, and he swept her away across the room, his arm so casual around her shoulder.

“Want you to meet Gail,” he said. “You’re gonna love her. You two are going to be total soul mates, I just know it.”

*

Alex steered a path through a crowded sitting room, then across an enormous ballroom edged with long tables covered with food, and out through massive sliding glass doors onto a terrace at the back of the house.

Here, in the evening sunshine, Lauren was amazed to see yet more crowds, everyone looking so young, chatting happily, smiling, laughing, drinking champagne as if they were all in some TV commercial for the Good Life.

The successful life …

“Gail, sweetie!” called Alex.

Lauren saw a tall blonde woman in a long dress (at least I’m not the only one in a long dress) turn from a group of young men and walk towards her.

Lauren recognised her instantly from the TV.

“Darling,” said Alex. “Meet Lauren.

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