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Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
Blade in the Water
1. Midsummer’s Eve
2. A Real Mystery
3. The Scene of the Crime
4. Of Blood and Boats
5. Missing, Presumed …
6. The World of Martin Kent
7. A Policeman’s Lot
8. Village Life
9. The House on the River
10. The Puzzle and its Pieces
11. The Boat in the Night
12. The Iron Works
14. The Last Race
15. One Last Surprise
“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.
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.
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
A COSY CRIME SERIES
Blade in the Water
»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/ Lsaloni/ BGSmith; Thinkstockphoto: Fuse
Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer
eBook production: Urban SatzKonzept, Düsseldorf
Ray Stroud walked carefully down the white line in the centre of the road that led to Cherringham Bridge. The night was so damned dark — no moon, and he could barely see the grassy verge on either side, let alone the fields he knew lay somewhere beyond the hedges.
He’d made a little bet with himself when he left the second party (or was it the third?) that he could get to the bridge without being knocked over by a car or an unseen lamp post, and so far things were looking pretty good.
It helped that at three in the morning there was very little traffic on this road.
But then, on the other hand, if a car did come hurtling down the hill at this time of night, it was quite likely the driver would be another old, drunken or stoned aging hippy like him.
In which case I shall lose the bet, he thought.
And then he thought — what was the bet?
And then he remembered. Reach the bridge alive — and have yourself another roll-up.
Hooray! Not bad …
He peered ahead and carried on planting his feet ever so carefully on the white line in the centre of the road.
No doubt about it — he felt quite wobbly.
Not surprising Ray, old chap. If you drink beer for eight hours solid.
But then again — eight hours wasn’t that long.
Must be slacking in me old age.
Then he remembered — right! He’d also had a sneaky spliff in Jez’s back garden.
Very mellow. But packed a delayed punch.
No wonder this white line seemed to be moving around beneath his old trainers.
He squinted at the sky.
Should be getting light soon. Definitely time I was in bed.
This whole Cherringham Regatta gig was playing havoc with his sleep routines — and it hadn’t hardly started yet.
He was no fan of work, but the dosh was good. But even prepping for the event meant long days, aching limbs, and blistered hands.
All week he’d been sticking up posters around the village, doing ground work, clearing hedgerows, trimming fields, putting up no-parking signs, and lugging crates of beer off trucks.
Now, that could make a man thirsty …
And naturally since it was all cash-in-hand, it involved long nights drinking the money away, too. Not that he minded. He still had a few quid left over every day, which he stuck in his secret tea caddy in the cupboard of the Magnolia, his old barge moored down on the river.
Old — but she still floats!
Course, some people hated the Regatta. Didn’t like the village filling up with outsiders. Up at the Ploughman’s, most of his mates had the same view: ‘All them posh bastards with their flash cars and their big white boats and their marquees and their Pimms tents should get the hell back to London!’
Then there was Cherringham’s own posh lot, kinda home-grown posh. They were disgusted by the empty fields filling up with tents and trucks and fairground people in jeans and stalls and burgers and tea vans and the odd bit of thieving.
Nightmare all around, the damn Regatta!
Truth is though — Ray didn’t mind one bit. Rich or poor — all the same to him. After all, only a couple of days every June and he always made a few bob out of it.
He looked around — and realised he’d reached the bridge.
Interesting … All that thinking doesn’t half make the time pass quick …
In the fields to his right, downriver, he could just see the outlines of the marquees he’d been helping to put up all week. And in the dim light he got glimpses along the sides of the old stone bridge of coloured flags and bunting to celebrate the Regatta, looking dark and grey in the night.
Below the bridge, he heard the river flowing over the weir, tumbling across the rocks. Ahead, he saw the shape of the Cherringham toll-booth in the centre of the road.
Well, well, well — still alive.
Won that one!
He’d successfully accomplished his heroic challenge. Time for a roll-up.
He hopped off the white line, walked over to the thin pavement at the side of the bridge, leaned against the stone parapet and rolled his cigarette.
Then he lit the end and inhaled deeply.
Ah. Nothing better than the first cigarette of the day.
Or was it the last one of the night? Hmm, now that was an intellectual quandary …
He looked down at the Thames twenty feet below, flowing fast under the bridge.
Then he turned, looking upstream, at the dark river. There was just enough light in the pre-dawn sky to make out the long line of barges and houseboats on the right bank that stretched half a mile upstream towards Ingleston Church.
He spotted his own boat — the Magnolia — a dark shape towards the end of the line.
No lights on in any of the boats. Everyone fast asleep.
But not everyone. He caught a flicker of movement on the black water up near the Magnolia.
He screwed up his eyes to see more clearly. What was it — bit of flotsam? An old tree trunk floating downstream?
Or a boat — with someone in it up to no good?
There’d been a few break-ins this last week. The odd bit of vandalism. Always happens around Regatta time, or when the carnies rolled into the village.
To be expected really, all these young hoods from the big towns turning up doing cash jobs, having a look-see what they could grab on the side.
Couldn’t blame ’em, Ray knew from his own, um, freelancing experiences. If someone leaves a door open, or a window, it’s just an invitation to help yourself really, right …?
But try it on his Magnolia? Oh — he’d soon sort them out!
Nobody messes with Ray Stroud, he thought, spitting out a loose fleck of tobacco.
The shape in the water getting closer.
Yes it was a boat — a little rowing boat.
And from the speed it was going, whoever was rowing knew what they were doing.
Strong, even pulls, the blades of the oars slicing into the water without splashing, the boat gliding effortlessly at speed towards him.
Funny. What kind of idiot would be rowing on the river now, this time of night, in pitch-black? Practising for the Regatta? And heading away from the village, too.
No, didn’t make sense — that boat … just a tiny little fibre-glass thing.
As the boat got closer, Ray peered hard at it, trying to see if he could recognise the rower but it was difficult because whoever it was faced away from him.
Definitely a bloke — that was for sure; you could tell from his build. Broad shoulders, tall. Dressed in black, like a Special Forces soldier from the movies. Black woolly hat pulled down snug so you couldn’t see his head properly.
The little rowing boat whizzed towards him then slipped under the bridge and out of sight.
Ah well, not my business.
Ray knew that if he crossed the bridge to the other side and looked down he’d get a good look at the fella’s face.
But — hell — he needed to get home to the Magnolia, have a nice cup of tea, grab some much needed shut-eye.
He flicked the stub of his roll-up into the river then headed over the bridge and down onto the riverbank.
By the time Ray reached his barge, there was just a hint of light in the sky, dawn on its way but with most of the sky still black. He climbed on board and unlocked the little wheelhouse.
God. He knew he had to be up by seven to join a gang digging drainage for the main beer tent.
Three hours’ sleep.
Yeah, no problem …
He got the door open and started to go down when a movement on the river caught his eye again.
His first thought: it’s the rower, coming back.
This was no tiny rowing boat.
This was bigger.
He walked to the edge of the deck to get a better view.
Twenty feet long, tall, white, state of the art — and definitely posh — the boat … a yacht, glided by, heading downstream.
Nothing that unusual in the height of summer.
But this boat had no lights on.
The engine wasn’t even running.
And there was nobody behind the wheel.
A hundred grand’s worth of luxury just … drifting, sliding down the river.
A ghost ship …
Ray watched it go past, heading towards Cherringham Bridge.
The ‘Mary Lou’ he read, painted in gold on her hull. ‘Cayman Islands’.
Ray shook his head.
Someone else’s problem, he thought.
Gotta keep an eye on your boat …
He turned and headed below decks.
Time I got some kip.
And he shut the wheelhouse door behind him and promptly forgot all about the two boats.
Jack slid the bacon and fried eggs out of the pan onto his plate, then topped the lot with a toasted bagel and headed out of the little galley of the Grey Goose and up the steps onto the sunlit deck.
Bit of a splurge for the arteries. Eggs, bacon.
But once a week wouldn’t hurt.
“C’mon Riley,” he said to his Springer.
But Riley didn’t need telling, when there was the chance of a bit of that bacon to be had, and the dog bounded after him.
Although still early, the sun was already hot, and in his bare feet Jack could feel the warmth in the wooden deck. He put the plate down on his shiny new garden table, next to the butter and jam and hoisted the deck’s sunshade.
Then, a gentle press of the cafetiere, and he poured his coffee into a big French cup he’d picked up when he’d toured Normandy last week in his little sports car.
Seventy years later, and looking at the beaches, the lines of crosses …
Knowing that it wasn’t just the gusty wind in his face that made him tear up.
He could see Riley sitting patiently now to one side of the table.
Jack took a sip of coffee and relished the view.
Up and downstream the other barges and boats were all decked out — like the Goose — in red, white and blue flags. The Cherringham Regatta colours.
His own NYPD pennant from back home flew proudly from the top of the little flagpole at the stern.
And in the far distance, on the other side of the bridge, he could just see the tops of the marquees, where most of the Regatta events would take place.
A long straight stretch of river with solid banks and open access lay on the far side of that bridge — perfect for the racing and the festivities to come at the weekend. Better than this meandering section upriver where the barges were moored nose to tail.
He took a mouthful of egg then opened the Cherringham Times — the most old-fashioned newspaper he’d ever read outside a museum — and started to search for the Regatta schedule.
This is the life, Jack Brennan, he thought.
For a moment he had a pang of wishing there was someone to share this moment with …
Not just someone. His Katherine.
But he had got good at pushing those thoughts away, and he took another forkful of bacon and eggs and did his best to think of something else.
A weekend on the river, sunshine forecast for five days, no chores, no worries.
The only hard work he had was to figure out which events he’d watch, where he’d have lunch, and which bar he’d head to in the evenings.
Does it get any better?
From his experience last year, he’d figured where the different crowds hung out. Old money tended to party in the grand houses downstream whose wide lawns reached down to the Thames — or aboard the floating ‘gin palaces’ which moored up below them.