Cherringham - Ghost of a Chance - Neil Richards - ebook
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Every Halloween, the supposedly haunted Bell Hotel hosts its famous 'Ghost-Hunters Dinner', complete with scary stories, spooky apparitions and things that go bump in the night. But this year's event ends in a terrifying accident, and suddenly everyone wonders ... Is there a real ghost loose in the hotel? Jack and Sarah are convinced that the culprit must be human: who would want bad things to happen at the classic hotel? But soon they're forced to confront their own superstitions as they find themselves on the trail of an unsolved Victorian murder ... 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), have been writing together since the mid 90’s, creating content and working on projects for the BBC, Disney Channel, Sony, ABC, Eidos, and Nintendo to name but a few. Their transatlantic collaboration has underpinned scores of TV drama scripts, computer games, radio shows, and - most recently - the successful crime fiction series Cherringham. Now into its second season of 12 novellas, Cherringham is popular around the world and has been adapted as a series of audiobooks in English and German.

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Contents

Cover

Cherringham - A Cosy Crime Series

About the Book

The Authors

Main Characters

Ghost of a Chance

Copyright

1. Introducing Freddy

2. Preparations for a Haunting

3. A Bump in the Night

4. Express Checkout

5. Freddy’s Hotel

6. Presenting Basil Whistlethwaite

7. Paddy Stover, At Your Service

8. Meet the Real Boss

9. A Surprising Interruption

10. An Unexpected Visitor

11. The Man in Room Three

12. With the Help of a Ghosthunter

13. A Question of Physics

14. Is There Anybody There?

15. Truth Will Out

16. A Message From the Other Side

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

Every Halloween, the supposedly haunted Bell Hotel hosts its famous ‘Ghost-Hunters Dinner’, complete with scary stories, spooky apparitions and things that go bump in the night. But this year’s event ends in a terrifying accident, and suddenly everyone wonders … Is there a real ghost loose in the hotel? Jack and Sarah are convinced that the culprit must be human: who would want bad things to happen at the classic hotel? But soon they’re forced to confront their own superstitions as they find themselves on the trail of an unsolved Victorian murder …

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

Ghost of a Chance

»be« by BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

Digital original edition

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

Copyright © 2015/2017 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

Written by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

Edited by Sean Sinico

Project management: Kathrin Kummer

Cover Illustration: © shutterstock: Buslik | Eric Isselee| JeniFoto| nikkytok| Longjourneys | BaLL LunLa| FooTToo

Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer

eBook production: Urban SatzKonzept, Düsseldorf

ISBN 978-3-7325-0851-8

www.be-ebooks.com

Twitter: @be_ebooks_com

1. Introducing Freddy

Basil Whistlethwaite parked his ancient Volvo Estate in the staff car park of The Bell Hotel, and turned off the engine.

Slowly he released his seat belt: the drive from York had taken him longer than he’d expected and his back ached.

He leaned forward and tilted the driving mirror so he could check his beard and moustache. He looked at his reflection in the fading light.

I’m getting too old for this, he thought.

There were dark circles under his eyes, and his skin looked lined and grey.

But the show must go on, he thought, tweaking the ends of his handlebar moustache until they were just … perfect.

Can’t let the customers down.

In truth, he rather wished he’d been able to cancel tonight’s little soirée. He felt tired and out of sorts. And these autumn nights were beginning to take their toll on his chest again: it took all of his willpower not to break out coughing.

And that wouldn’t do, oh no!

Can’t have the master of ceremonies breaking the spell with a sneeze and a cough!

He climbed out of the car, picked up his old leather suitcase from the back seat, straightened his tweed suit and headed across the gravel towards the main entrance of the hotel.

At the front door, he paused and took in the place. It was almost exactly a year since he’d last been here and nothing seemed to have changed.

Nothing ever changed at The Bell Hotel.

In the misty early evening light, the building looked almost romantic.

Or … what was the word …?

Gothic. Yes, that was it. Perfect for a haunting.

Surrounded by dense, old-fashioned gardens, the grand Victorian house — Cherringham’s finest, they used to say — still spoke of the lost wealth of Empire.

But Basil knew that the dear old Bell was putting a brave face on things. Anyone could see that the paint on the windows was peeling, the gutters hung at unlikely angles and the roof tiles were crumbling.

The carpets and upholstery grew more frayed with each passing year.

Happens to us all in the end, thought Basil. But I bet The Bell will still be here long after I’ve gone.

He felt that tickle rising in his lungs and fought back the instinct to cough.

Then he headed on up the faded marble steps, pushed at the brown, varnished doors, and entered.

*

“Basil, Basil my dear old chap, how are you?”

Basil got up from the hard-backed sofa where he’d been waiting, and watched as Lawrence Myrtle, the owner of The Bell, shuffled towards him across the tiled reception area.

He held out his hand for Lawrence to shake, but instead the old man reached around him and gave him an unexpected — and shaky — embrace.

“I’m well,” said Basil, slightly embarrassed. “Soldiering on, you know.”

“Can’t believe it’s Halloween again,” said Lawrence, still clinging to his arm. “Where does the time go, eh?”

“Where indeed?” said Basil, waiting for the man to move on. In the dimly lit reception area, Basil could see that Lawrence looked even frailer than the last time he saw him.

But that wasn’t surprising: Lawrence must surely now be in his eighties. Basil could see that the old man’s jacket was threadbare at the cuffs, and though his tie was smartly tucked into his collar … was that a smidgen of egg as it widened? Ketchup too?

The Bell’s owner was well beyond retirement age. How could he possibly still be running this place?

“How are the children?” said Basil. “Are they around?”

“Oh, Mandy’s in London,” said Lawrence. “Don’t see much of her. Too busy, apparently.”

“And your eldest …?”

Basil struggled to remember the name.

“Crispin,” said Lawrence. “Yes, he’s off at some conference. Back tomorrow. That’s why I’m in charge tonight! Tout seul, as our friends across the Channel say!”

“Aha! You’ll always be the real boss here, Lawrence.”

That made the owner smile.

“They’ll have to carry me out in a box,” said Lawrence with a hooting laugh that echoed in the tiled hallway.

Basil laughed.

Then he made a mental note to catch up with Crispin tomorrow after breakfast and book himself in to next year’s diary.

I know who’s really running things these days, Basil thought. Crispin keeps the books — and signs the cheques.

“We looking after you properly?” asked Lawrence, waving a hand vaguely in the direction of the reception desk, as if he’d been privy to Basil’s thoughts.

Basil looked over at the young female receptionist who sat peering at her mobile phone.

“Treating me like royalty,” said Basil smoothly. “Haven’t been up to my room yet, of course. Thought I’d get cracking on preparations first.”

He picked up his suitcase.

“Aha!” said Lawrence. “The old ghostly bag of tricks, eh?”

“No tricks required,” said Basil, winking. “We can always rely on Freddy to make an appearance.”

“Ha, well that’s your line and you stick to it,” said Lawrence, walloping Basil on the back. “But I’ve been here fifty years you know, and I still haven’t seen the ghostly fella!”

“Have to open your mind, Lawrence. Then you’ll see him.”

Lawrence grinned and shook his head. “Only ghost I’m likely to see is the bloomin’ tax man — over my dead body too!”

“Still up against it, are you?”

“We survive, somehow,” said Lawrence. “Event like yours — damned useful you know. Bit of extra cash. Couldn’t do without it.”

“Happy to be here, as ever,” said Basil. “What sort of numbers we got tonight?”

“Sold out old boy! Tickets went like hot cakes.”

“Excellent,” said Basil. “Same room as last year?”

“Looks a treat,” said Lawrence. “I’ll show you.”

Basil followed as Lawrence turned and shuffled away at surprising speed towards the dining room.

*

The main dining room was empty and Basil saw that only a handful of the twenty or so tables were set for dinner. There was a faint aroma of boiled cabbage in the air and Basil was reminded of school meals.

The famed Bell Hotel “cuisine”!

“This way,” said Lawrence.

And Basil walked behind him into the private dining room at the back of the hotel.

This was more like it.

The room was dominated by a portrait of the original owners of the house which he’d always admired. They made a fine couple: he in dress uniform, she at his side in silk.

A fire was already lit in the grand fireplace, and candles had been set in every alcove around the walls.

Above the fireplace an imposing gilt mirror, big enough for a ballroom.

Basil took in the long table in the centre of the room, with its places already set, serried ranks of heavy Victorian cutlery, a line of candelabra and bowls of lilies.

A massive crystal chandelier hung above the table: even now its drops sparkled in the electric light. Basil could see it had been filled with candles to be lit before dinner commenced: as usual, it would provide the perfect historical touch!

“Done me proud again,” said Basil. “It’s like travelling in time …”

“The 31st of October, 1900, to be precise,” said Lawrence.

“The night dear Freddy died. Or should I say … was murdered …”

“Sends a shiver through the bones, eh?”

“That’s the idea,” said Basil. “And wait till I get ’em properly spooked — they’ll be necking that wine like there’s no tomorrow!”

“Can’t wait, Basil, old boy. Let the tills ring out with joyous coins!”

Basil walked around the room, inspecting the fireplace, looking under the table, working out his sightlines.

Some of his ghostly apparitions were fiendishly difficult to set up …

“Anything I can get you?” said Lawrence who stood with his back to the fire.

“Brought everything I need with me,” said Basil. “Just make sure I have the room to myself for the hour before dinner, if you can Lawrence. Tell Mr. Stover not to disturb me?”

Basil was no fan of Lawrence’s long-serving ‘number two’.

Uncouth? Lout? Basil wasn't sure how to describe Stover.

“And no serving staff, no interruptions, usual thing.”

“Trade secrets, eh?”

“Something like that,” said Basil. “You joining us for the show this year?”

“Love to, old chap,” said Lawrence. “But with Crispin away I’m back in charge until the night porter gets here. Got to stay off the old sauce, know what I mean?”

“Shame,” said Basil, joining him by the fireplace. “Perhaps we can grab a crafty snifter together when they’ve all gone to bed?”

“Why not?” said Lawrence. “Be just like old times, eh?”

Basil sensed a note of sadness in the old man’s voice.

“It certainly will,” he said.

The ancient clock on the mantelpiece started to chime and Basil waited for it to finish.

“Six o’clock,” he said. “I’d better get cracking.”

And he headed back towards reception, leaving Lawrence staring into the flames.

2. Preparations for a Haunting

“Freddy? You there, old boy?”

Basil tapped on the dusty door that led to the attic bedroom and waited.

He went through this little ritual every time he came to The Bell. Had done for years.

He wasn’t sure if it was superstition — or just common sense. His whole act here — the soirée as he liked to call it — was built upon the tragic story of Freddy Rose.

This had been Freddy’s bedroom all those years ago.

And where they’d found his body.

So Basil felt it was only courteous to include the long-dead servant in the event.

After all, one thing he’d learned from bitter experience over the years … You can’t be too careful with ghosts.

About that — he was deadly serious.

He tapped again.

“Coming in now, if that’s okay with you Freddy. It’s just me. Basil.”

But I expect you know that, he thought.

If you’re really there.

He took a deep breath, then gently pushed open the attic door. Light from the bare bulb in the landing carved into the darkness of the old servant’s bedroom.

Basil reached around the doorframe until his hand found the switch and he turned the light on.

“Good God!”

He jolted back, his heart lurching, his legs nearly giving way.

A man stood facing him, his arm outstretched.

Then Basil realised who it was …

A full-length mirror stood opposite the door, leaning against the wall.

His own reflection had nearly given him a heart attack!

You idiot, Whistlethwaite! You’re the one supposed to be doing the scaring!

He caught his breath again, then pushed the door open wider, and headed into the room for a look around.

Perfect. The place had hardly been touched since last year — apart from the mirror, of course. But Basil was already thinking how he could use that in his ghostly tour of the upper rooms. If it scared him, then it would surely scare the life out of the punters.

Just got to set it up right.

He went over to the tiny window and pulled back the shutters. They creaked and groaned like something out of a Hammer Horror film.

Very nice, thought Basil.

The window seemed to be jammed shut, but after a shove with the heel of his hand he managed to get it open.

A blast of cold air rushed in.

Basil rocked the old window back and forth a couple of times to loosen it, then closed it, and pulled the shutters to.

Then he turned and carefully examined the room.

The single bed, in an old iron frame. The chest of drawers. The big wardrobe, taking up almost a whole wall. A Victorian water pitcher and bowl. A small candleholder.

Oh yes — this would all do very nicely.