Cherringham - A Deadly Confession - Neil Richards - ebook
Opis

On the edge of Cherringham lies St. Francis' Convent, home of the Sisters of St. Francis, a small Catholic teaching order. Here a handful of nuns worship, contemplate, and pray. And here one Easter the beloved local priest Father Byrne meets his unexpected demise. The circumstances of the death are suspicious, and soon Jack and Sarah are on the case: what secrets did Father Byrne take to the grave? Who wanted him dead? And is religious faith ever a guarantee of innocence? Cherringham is a serial novel à la Charles Dickens, with a new mystery thriller released each month. Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly - but with a spot of tea - it's like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick read for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa. For fans of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series, Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who series, Caroline Graham's Midsomer Murders, and the American TV series Murder She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury. Co-authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration.

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Contents

Cover

Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series

The Authors

Main Characters

A Deadly Confession

Copyright

1. Good Friday

2. A Surprise Visitor

3. The Fête

4. Vows of Silence?

5. The Good Father’s Room

6. The Last Run

7. A Jog with Liam

8. Ordinary People

9. A Tale of Two Countries

10. A Night Mission

11. A Surprise Visitor

12. Suspects and Suspicion

13. Wide Web

14. The Gallops

15. A Walk by The River

16. After Dinner Confessions

17. The Nun’s Tale

18. A Thirty-Year-Old Toast

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 …

Matthew CostelloNeil Richards

CHERRINGHAM

A COSY CRIME SERIES

A Deadly Confession

»be« by BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

Digital original edition

»be« by Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

Copyright © 2014/2017 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

Written by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

Edited by Victoria Pepe

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover illustration: © shutterstock: Buslik / Mykhaylo Palinchak / Claire McAdams; Thinkstockphoto: Matthew DixonMatthew Dixon

Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer

eBook production: Urban SatzKonzept, Düsseldorf

ISBN 978-3-8387-4842-9

www.be-ebooks.com

Twitter: @be_ebooks_com

1. Good Friday

Eamon Byrne zigzagged through the thicket, his expensive new running shoes gripping hard on the muddy trail, his arms fending off stray branches, which threatened to flip back into his face.

‘The Flying Father’ they called him — and boy was he flying now!

He risked a quick glance at his special watch and felt a thrill as he took in the figures: his split times were amazing this morning; surely a personal best.

Stick this in your pipe and smoke it, Liam, he thought.

Pace — eight miles an hour. Heart rate — a tad high, but surely nothing to worry about.

Three more kilometres out of ten left to run — but they were the easy three, flat along the riverbank by the meadows. Only the hard uphill dogleg through Marchmain’s Woods could possibly slow his average now.

Days like this — when the running was fluid, easy, effortless — were rare and unpredictable. No amount of training made them happen more often. They came out of nowhere, and he knew by now not to question them.

Just enjoy this feeling, he thought, for it is a gift from God, and he’s not been giving much to me lately.

If only Liam could have joined him this morning. Liam understood the numbers. Liam would have shared his joy.

Ah well, if Liam cannot be my witness then it shall have to be God, Eamon thought. God is infinitely good.

And what a weekend to celebrate His goodness.

In just an hour’s time, showered, shaved, his mind emptied of all matters of the flesh, Eamon would be celebrating Good Friday mass with the nuns at the church of St. Francis.

Good Friday — the most solemn of days in the Christian calendar. And yet the harbinger too of the most joyous day — Easter Sunday!

Many times over the years he had questioned his calling, his faith. He’d not been the only one to do so either — indeed the Bishop recently seemed to have made it a personal ambition to have Eamon defrocked.

But each time one of the great landmarks of the ecumenical calendar rolled around — Easter, Christmas Day, Palm Sunday — the thrilling drama and mystery of the event reminded him that the priesthood was the only life he could ever lead.

Although, in truth, at times it seemed he lived two lives as a priest.

On the one hand — the Shepherd of his flock, ministering to their every spiritual need. And on the other — the Flying Father of the international marathon circuit, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for the poor and the needy and the lost.

And then of course, there was that … other … life he lived. The secret life he kept so tight, so close that few — if any — knew of it…

God is forgiving, he also believed.

But no. Now is not the time to think of that.

He emerged from the trees and turned hard right onto the gravel path which ran alongside the river. The air down here smelt sweet and clear.

He lifted his head high to take in the beauty of the spring morning.

The sun had only been up an hour and the meadows sparkled with dew for miles.

Up on the far hill, the village of Cherringham slumbered still — a late lie-in being taken by one and all on the first day of the holiday weekend. He could see the Cotswold stone of the houses glowing warm in the rays of the rising sun.

He heard a sound behind him on the river, and, still running, turned…

…to see a pair of swans coming in low to land in the water by the moored barges. The birds seemed to hang in the air beside him and for a brief second he thought he could feel the thread of God’s creation binding his own running figure to the swans, to the waters, to the meadows, and the orange rising sun.

Then the swans hit the water and he pushed his pace higher and left them behind.

His body felt on top form this morning, the muscles of his legs flexing painlessly, his breathing strong and unforced.

Sixty-two years old and fitter than half the men in Cherringham! he thought.

The drugs he was on for his heart were a miracle indeed — but a scientific one. No matter what stresses he faced, there was no danger now of repeating that awful moment last autumn when he’d felt his chest lurch and his pulse race, and he’d heard the communion chalice crash to the stone at his feet and it had all gone dark…

No. Science was keeping him alive. Though, of course the Almighty had a small say in that too…

Is this what it feels like to be truly happy? he thought. I’m sure as heck don’t deserve it.

As his feet pounded a rhythm on the muddy towpath, he tried to corral the worries that had plagued him this last week, that had woken him each morning in a cold sweat, and forced him onto his knees on the hard stone of St. Francis’s church to pray for guidance…

They’re like demons, he thought. But demons of my own making.

He’d been in trouble before. Many times. But he’d been younger then, more agile. Maybe not so canny, but full of bluster for sure.

And he’d also not been playing for such high stakes.

What in God’s high heaven had made him do it? How did he think he was going to get away with it? But he knew the answer even as he asked himself the question.

Pride. Lust. Greed.

That oh-so-familiar threesome of sins which had shadowed his life from the moment he’d walked out of the seminary as a young man right up to this very day.

What soothing pleasure those three imposters had given him over the years. But now … what a payment they were exacting. Colluding with each other to wreak revenge upon him.

How on earth was he going to get out of this mess?

He was running out of time. Maybe over this weekend he could call in some favours. Yes, that might work. A flight back to Dublin, slip down to the Temple Bar, mix with the tourists, but he still had old friends there he could trust.

People he could rely on. To help — no questions asked.

But then … dammit. There was the other thing. Jesus, that would be even worse, if that got out, that would be the end of him.

Enough! Concentrate on the run — just the run!

He heard his watch beep and flicked his eyes to its face. Another terrific split, unbelievable, just two kilometres to go.

Eat your heart out Liam, I’m kicking your ass today!

Ahead of him he could see the river making its lazy loop away from Cherringham and around Marchmain’s Hill, with its steep slopes and dense wood.

He could stick on the river path, but the course — his regular run — took him up the punishing slope and through the woods, before dropping down to St. Francis’ Convent.

Ten kilometres exactly.

With one final glance at his watch he turned off the track and headed into the dark woods.

*

Eamon’s breath was coming hard now, each lungful seeming to tear his chest apart. No need to look at the heart monitor on this climb — he knew it would be tipping the danger point — drugs or no drugs.

Marchmain’s Hill was always tough. But a run like today, with such a fast start, this was always going to hurt.

No pain, no gain, he thought. Which saint said that, now?

He forced himself to think technique. Breathe deep, control the exhalation, every step another metre. Chest up. Head high.

Look ahead — focus on the top of the hill, just a couple of hundred yards ahead through the forest path.

He thought back to the New York Marathon — that final blistering mile, the crowd cheering him on, the finish line just a blur, his whole body like jelly, his spirit flailing.

And then — that rush of faith which had seemed to lift him off the ground, propelling him as if a pair of angels had been tasked with saving him.

The Flying Father does it again!

Nearly ten thousand he’d raised — he handed the Cardinal the cheque himself, right on the steps of St. Patty’s! His final time incredible — unworldly.

The memory of that triumph spurred him on now, his feet driving into the hard clay, the tall trees seeming to whoosh past as he squeezed through the overhanging branches and tall shrubs.

Just fifty yards to go to the top then it would be a race downhill to the convent, the wind on his face cooling him, a long shower, hot coffee, a cooked breakfast—

Only minutes away!

And then:

He didn’t see what tripped him. But something caught his foot and he went down hard, his chest crashing into the unforgiving ground, his arms and legs scraping raw as he tumbled.

He landed with his back slamming hard against a tree and groaned in pain.

What the hell? Was that a rope?

For a second, he lay there mentally checking — arms, legs, broken bones. Heart…

Jeez, that’s pumping like a good ’un, better calm down, breathe slowly.

He looked up through the tall trees to the watery blue sky above. If his heart packed up on him now, nobody would find him up here for hours. He was on his own.

But no, he wasn’t. For now he could hear movement in the trees right behind him.

Thank God.

But as he lay on his back staring at the sky, a figure stepped in front of him, peering down at him.

Someone he knew.

And someone who knew the things he had done.

Oh God, thought Father Byrne as the face loomed close.

And he began to pray, but suddenly God seemed to have vanished.

2. A Surprise Visitor

Jack sipped his coffee, leaned back in his camping chair and checked again that the old fishing rod by his side was nicely secured.

Twenty yards out into the river he could see the little yellow float bobbing innocuously — no sign of a fish yet.

But heck — he had all morning with nothing to do but relax.

And what a morning he’d picked for a day off all chores.

There wasn’t a hint of a breeze. And although it was only nine, already he felt a little heat in the spring sun, a soothing warmth on the back of his neck.

He looked over at Riley, his Springer Spaniel who lay snoozing in the long grass in the sunshine: he’d given up chasing rabbits and taken the day off too.

Apart from the mooing cows in the meadows on the other side of the river, and bustling birdlife all around, there wasn’t a sound to disturb the peace. Although today was Easter Sunday, it was still too early for the holiday crowd — picnickers, walkers, kayakers — to have gotten this far upstream.

He peered out at the float again: the river was flowing softly — in fact, he couldn’t recall it having rained for at least a week.

Now that’s gotta be some kind of English record, he thought.

He watched a pair of swans glide downstream towards his home — the squat Dutch barge, the Grey Goose, last in a line of barges and houseboats that stretched half a mile down to Cherringham Bridge.

Home for two years now, since he’d retired from the NYPD and followed his and his wife Katherine’s dream of retiring to England and living on a river barge.

But then…

But then…