I wanted to say here’s the first chapter from my new book. But that doesn’t seem right when I’ve not put a book out yet. So here’s the deal: I’m about halfway through this tome at the moment but I thought I’d put out a little preview. The title, tentatively, is DEAD BODIES IN A ROW. I don’t know what it means, but it sounds hardboiled. I guess that’s the idea. I love crime stories, but they’re always set in New York or LA or Boston. So why not try setting one in my fair city? I have to admit it’s been strange writing about places that I walk past, and I’m not sure the fit works yet, but I’m willing to give it a try. If nothing else it’s been a lot of fun to write.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this is only a first draft (I usually write about five) so this can and will probably change. I think there’s parts here that don’t work and language that doesn’t flow right, but it should at least give an idea of what I want to do.
So without further ado. Here’s Chapter 1, and sorry for the formatting but WordPress doesn’t care for paragraphs.
He offered me a drink and I declined. It wasn’t long past ten in the morning and he didn’t have my brand anyway. He said “Suit yourself.” and poured one out. It wasn’t his first of the day either. The whiskey swam in two cubes of ice that clinked against the glass when he picked it up. He settled into a leather chair that creaked under his weight and rested the drink on the arm.
“I’ll pay the taxi fare back.” He told me. “You’ll be compensated whether you choose to help or not.”
“Thanks.” I said. I still didn’t know why I was here. I woke up an hour before to a knock on my door. A man was waiting outside and in a pleasant way asked, while really demanding, that I come with him. The man who had summoned me was Edward Harris. I knew of him just like he knew of me: We occasionally crossed paths with people who ran in similar circles. His house was one of those ones just outside of Cardiff, where the roads get narrower and can only let one car through at a time. It was the type of place you didn’t belong unless you were a lottery winner, or in Mr Harris’ case, you made your fortune from other means. He had a gate that opened when the car approached, though I could see a keypad and a camera attached to it. He had a driveway that was made of gravel that cost a small fortune per bag. It ground nicely beneath the wheels of the car, a Jaguar.
I was sitting in what I’m sure was a study. There was a fireplace that wasn’t roaring on one wall, and the wall opposite was lined with books. I doubt that he had ever opened any of them. The whole room was ornate and expensive and was someone’s idea of what a cultured person would have. I was still half asleep when he offered me a drink, and I wasn’t even sure what day it was.
“I’m sure you know why you’re here.” He sniffed.
“I have an idea.” I could guess. It could be a hundred things. It could be a cheating wife, a missing dog or even a legal advice. As long as he paid me for it I didn’t care.
“Do you have children?” He didn’t look at me. He stared at the ice slowly melting in his glass.
“Probably better off that way.” He took another drink. “I don’t mean that. Or maybe I do. Fucking hell.” He let out a sigh. He deflated in the chair. He was easily as tall as I was but now looked a lot smaller.
“I have two children,” He started, “Jessie is away in London I think. She was meant to be on a shopping trip. That was two months ago. She’s met a boy no doubt. She always does. Smart girl, just lazy.” He swirled the ice around in his glass, thought about taking a drink, then put it back down again.
“The boy. Well, he did what boys do. Wasn’t that smart, didn’t want to work. But they’re kids aren’t they, so what else do you do but hope they find their way.” He paused. I let him talk when he was ready. “He went it alone. Of course he needed my help to do it but he wanted to do his own thing. Said he made connections. Conmen was more like it. I tried telling him but he was a slippery little bastard. Got a silver tongue on him. No idea who he gets it from.” He decided to take that drink, a big one, before he spoke. “Well he got used to his own stuff didn’t he. Same old story. I guess he pissed off the wrong people but still he-“ He stumbled over his words. His eyes got wet. “He didn’t deserve that.”
I couldn’t comment on what the kid deserved or not. I had a feeling I’d find out soon enough.
“He should’ve been home!” He talked at his glass. “Not over there, under a bridge like a fucking dog.”
“Is your son dead?” I looked at him, not that he returned my gaze. “Aye. He’s gone.” He answered. “And I want you to find out who did it.”
“Mr Harris,” He still didn’t look at me, “I’m sure the police-“
“The police will lock him up. I want him brought here.”
“I’m not a delivery man.” I snapped back, not that he seemed to notice.
“I’ll pay you well. I’m prepared to give you twenty-thousand now, another twenty on delivery. You could take a couple of years off work at that rate. Help lonely old women find their cats or something. Give it away, I don’t care.”
“People are going to be watching me.”
“From what I hear you’re a slippery customer.”
“Not slippery. Just lucky.”
“Whatever you call it. Will you help me?”
My coat felt heavier, even when I was sitting down. I’d never seen twenty thousand in notes before and I guess I still didn’t. But I could feel it. It sat in my inside pocket, the right side of my coat leaning lower than the other. The ride back went by quickly, but then I had a feeling that everything went by a bit quicker when you were euphoric.
I deposited the money in an account, minus a couple of hundred I kept in my wallet. The woman behind the counter flashed an eye at the unshaven mess in front of her and for a moment I thought she was going to call for security. She handed me a receipt and wished me a good day. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be.
I got back to the flat to find bills on top of bills on top of offers for a loan. I would be holding off on the loan for now, but at least I knew those bills would be getting paid. I had taken his offer and his money, I was at least going to make sure I kept a roof over my head. He didn’t say much after offering me the job, except to reiterate his terms and to tell me what he knew about the boy, which wasn’t a lot. I wasn’t to involve the police and I wasn’t to take matters into my own hands. I didn’t have plans to do either one of those things.
I grabbed some old identification and headed out.
They found him under a bridge that crossed over the Taff. Up river was the park and gardens that offered a place to lay around in the summer, and only offered a shortcut to the city in winter. Down river was the stadium, looming over everything like the barely used monstrosity that it was.
The river was flowing hard that day, the tide and rising rainfall meant that it gushed through the city like rapids. Up on the bridge some curious onlookers leaned over the side, no doubt some of them wondered what it would be like to jump in. According to the father it was one of those that caught a glimpse of a leg peering out down below. They didn’t think anything of it until their girlfriend, perhaps possessing something more akin to morals than her boyfriend did, made him call the police. They were slow to respond, thinking the body was one of the tramps passed out, but when they got a good look they called it in.
He had been stabbed three times in the chest. The first would’ve killed him in minutes from blood loss alone. The second did the job almost instantly. The third was out of frustration. Before that he had his nose broken. The bridge snapped in the middle and caused the bone to jut out. Lastly, he had two little holes in the crux of his arm, deposits of poison that he couldn’t quit. Word got out about who his father was, but no one seemed to care. His son had fucked up and pissed off the wrong people. It happens. Fuck up or not, the old man was right: He didn’t deserve this.
The river was calmer now, but the crime scene was still there. Discarded blue and white police tape fluttered in the wind, rising up and snapping back with every gust. The scene had been trampled through, evidence taken and the crime forgotten about. The only thing that was left were thin streams of blood that nestled into the concrete. Someone didn’t care to clean it up. It made a nice companion to the layers of graffiti that adorned the walls underneath the bridge. I crouched down and looked among the dust and rubbish. The wind picked up and with one gust carried the litter further down the path that would eventually run along the river’s embankment. Tucked into the crevice in the wall was a small scrap of paper. It had been torn off the edge of a notepad and folded. I reached in, trying to grasp it with my fingers, tweezers would’ve been easier, and eventually got a grip on it. I unfolded it. On it was a name and a number. The name read C. Wren and underneath that was a mobile number. I pocketed the paper and left the scene.
Nearby I sat on a bench. The view was pleasant even when the weather wasn’t. Autumn had come into full effect and it was one of those rare days when it wasn’t raining. I’m sure it won’t last long. I reached into my pocket for cigarettes and pulled out a stack of gum instead. It would have to do. I would call the number on the paper later. It could be something, chances are it would be nothing at all. Probably just someone who gets their kicks by leaving their number in public places, looking for a fun time. I was sure that if I called it now I’d be talking to a nervous office worker with half a hard-on and a desire to be humiliated. You just never know.
“Hey man.” The guy mumbled at me. He was short, dirty in the face, his hair stuck to his head. If I ran my hand through it I’d have enough grease to fix the hinges on my door. He wore a hooded jacket underneath a fake leather one. “You looking?” He shifted from side to side, his eyes always wandering. I shook my head to tell him no I wasn’t. “Suit yourself.” He said and sniffed, as if I’d personally offended him. Before he went on his way I called him back. “Maybe there is something you can help me with though.” I motioned over to the bridge. “The guy found under there. You see him?”
“I dunno mate.” He said, his weight shifting from foot to foot.
“Twenty quid says you do.” I reached into my wallet and tilted it away from him. I pulled out a twenty and held it out. He snatched it off me and stuck it in his pocket.
“I’d seen him around. Recently. I mean, before all that like.” He sniffed again.
“Not much else to tell. Sometimes he was dealing, sometimes he was using.”
“Did he have any friends?”
“Yeah sometimes he’d be down here with a few mates. Same as anyone else. Others he’d be around here on his own either shooting or scoring.”
“I get the picture. How long has he been coming here?”
“Fuck knows. About a month or so I’d say.”
“Did you see what happened when he died?”
“Are you police or something?”
“I’m a concerned citizen.”
“Right, whatever. No I didn’t see anything. I was at the shelter. It was a shitty night, pissed down all day and night. Doubt you’ll find anyone who was out here then.”
“Alright, thanks.” He hung around a little longer before sulking off.
“Tell you what though mate.” He turned around. “Paper got it wrong. They said he jacked himself up but I know for a fact he couldn’t stand needles.”
I drank expensive coffee and stared out of the window. It was lunchtime and the workers fled their offices and swarmed in for lunch and to have their quick little catch ups with friends they hadn’t seen in too long. In less than two hours this place will be dead again until the evening crowd. I stirred my coffee and wanted to add a little something to it. Instead I added sugar. Something gnawed at me, something that made things more complicated than I wanted.
I scrolled through the local paper for any follow up news. There was a story on more immigrants moving to Cardiff than anywhere else in the UK and how some people weren’t happy about it. Let them all in I say, the more the merrier. There was a story about a dog that won a photo competition, and how a local celebrity was trying his hand at opening an expensive restaurant that I’ll never visit. But there was nothing about a junkie who died under a bridge, and the fact that he might not have been a junkie at all.
He hated needles, that’s what the man had said.
I picked up my phone and made a call.