Severn House is proud to be publishing a collection of new stories from the glittering talent of the members of the Crime Writers’ Association:
CAROL ANNE DAVIS
YVONNE EVE WALUS
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 2.70(d)|
Read an Excerpt
A Crime Writers' Association Anthology
By Martin Edwards
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2014 Martin Edwards
All rights reserved.
Frances Brody writes the 1920s Yorkshire-based mystery series featuring war widow turned sleuth, Kate Shackleton. Before turning to crime, Frances wrote radio and theatre plays, TV scripts and sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin debut award for the most regionally evocative family saga of the millennium.
Why does a police car look so much like a police car, like it couldn't be anything else? It couldn't be any more noticeable if it came onto the estate sirens blazing.
'It's there,' I said, 'past the lamppost.' She stopped the car. She got out, I got out. Our house is the corner one in this squared off bit of street so you have to walk across the stretch of grass where you're not supposed to play football or cricket, and everyone does. I'd heard them as we came round the corner. The Patel kids and our Anthony. They play cricket like World War Three. When the car stopped and I got out it went quiet. Desperately, impressively quiet, like someone had said, 'Freeze!'
We went through the gate and she was going to knock on the front door.
'Back way,' I said and we walked round.
Just for a second it crossed my mind that I could run for it. But where could I go? Besides, she was dead close. Breathing down my neck. I went in. As usual, Mum and Dad were at the table, drinking tea. Smoking. They looked across – and then they saw her. Miss Bluebottle.
'Hi,' I said. And my voice was real normal, as if I wasn't being brought home by the busies.
She said, 'Hello, Mrs Markham, Mr Markham.'
They just sat there. Looking. Like they were seeing a scene on telly and waiting for it to change. They're not exactly action packers at the best of times.
'Are you going to tell them, Rachel, or shall I?'
Mum and Dad just sat there. Like, What's this? What's going on?
'I got picked up for shoplifting,' I said.
'What?' said Mum.
Dad didn't say anything. He forgot to smoke. His mouth kind of opened, like it was waiting for his cig. Then he closed it, and his head kind of nodded, as if it didn't have anything to do with him.
'Can I sit down?' the copper asked.
'You better come in the front room,' said Mum.
'Hang on a minute.' Dad looked at me. 'Did you do it? Were you shoplifting?'
And I knew if I said no, he would shove her out the door, copper or no copper.
We went in the front room.
We all sat down. Somehow the copper ended up sitting next to me on the settee. Mum and Dad in the chairs, looking ... separate.
'A colleague and I responded to a call from Meredith's Bookshop at four thirty,' said the copper, like she'd learned the lines. 'There were several girls together, seen behaving suspiciously, and suspected of shoplifting. The manager had apprehended Rachel.'
Mum said, 'What were you doing in Meredith's?'
Dad said, 'Who were you with?'
'That's what I'd like to know,' said the copper. 'The other girls got away.'
I said nothing.
'Meredith's?' said Mum. 'What did you take?'
'Jude the Obscure.'
I really appreciated Dad making one of his stupid jokes. It was almost like he couldn't help it, even when I was on the point of being hung, drawn and quartered. Then I realised, he wasn't joking. He'd gone senile. I always knew he would. He always said I'd send him round the twist one of these days.
The copper said, 'Rachel had four copies of Jude the Obscure in her bag. We have reason to believe one of her friends took multiple copies of Twelfth Night and another girl took ... some poetry.'
I nearly said the set anthology, but that would have given the game away.
'Is this true?' said Mum.
I wished I could think of some way of denying it. Like claiming Jude had just kind of made a rush at me and leapt into my bag, like someone was after him, Tess of the d'Ubervilles or The Mayor of Casterbridge.
'Why?' said Mum.
'Because they're on my book list.'
'Why four?' said Mum.
That was when I decided to shut up altogether.
'Were you taking them to re-sell at school?' the copper asked. As if she hadn't asked me before.
Dad was looking at his feet. I expect he was remembering how when I was little and looking through his books he'd told me which ones he'd liberated and when I asked him what liberated meant Mum had nearly started to beat him up.
I wanted to tell him it wasn't his fault. It wasn't even my idea. I said nothing.
'So what happens now?' said Mum.
'I have to write a report. The inspector needs to see it. Then it's up to the inspector. And Meredith's.'
'Is she going to be prosecuted?' said Mum.
'You're an idiot,' said Dad. 'What are you?'
I didn't think I needed to answer.
'Possibly,' said the copper to Mum. 'It would help if she'd give a full account.'
Shop my mates, she meant.
'Can you leave us to talk to her?' said Mum, thinking she could get it out of me.
'I'd prefer it if we could have a statement now,' said the copper.
I said nothing. Why was I so slow? By the time I'd got to the door at Meredith's, everyone else had gone and they'd done this clever blocking me thing so I couldn't get out. I mean, four copies of Jude the Obscure. I wouldn't have minded getting nicked if I'd gone for a big one. Post Office job. I wished I didn't feel sick.
'Well?' said Mum. 'Who was with you? Whose idea was it? Have you done this kind of thing before?'
'What was wrong with the library?'
'I told you. I told you I needed the books.'
Dad leapt off his chair and came yelling and screeching towards me like he was king of the apes.
'I was gettin' 'em. I was gettin' 'em for you. I gave you one. I gave you Jude the bloody Obscure.'
Mum glared at him and I could hear her thoughts saying, Sit down, you. Stop making a show!
He sat down, but like he couldn't keep still. He was bashing his hands up and down on the chair arm.
'They were captured on camera,' said the copper. 'We will identify them. It would be simpler for us and easier for you if you'd make a full statement.'
'Come on,' said Dad to me. 'Come in the kitchen.'
I got up and followed him in.
He put the kettle on. Tea and cigarettes. That's what he lives on. Cigarettes and tea.
'Why? Why? Why bring one of them in the house? We can do without the law. Isn't it bad enough?'
'Yes, it's bad enough.'
He sent me back in, to ask if the policewoman took sugar.
In the kitchen, he said, 'Jude the Obscure, Jude the Obscure. What was wrong with my copy of Jude the Obscure?'
'It was scribbled in.'
'Annotated. The word is annotated.'
It was like he was dragging the word from somewhere a long way off.
'You're an idiot? What are you?'
There are always three choices when you get a remark like that. You can say, All right. So I'm an idiot. You can say nothing, maybe include a sigh. Usually a good option. Or you can say something else. I said, 'Property is theft.'
He banged his hand on the table and at the same moment looked out of the window and saw the police car. He said, 'And theft is a criminal record. For the rest of your life. We don't do that. We pay for what we want or we go without, all right?'
'I'm sick of going without.'
'And do you think I'm not?'
He put teabags in three cups. I poured myself an orangeade.
'Before this tea mashes, I want to know.'
I closed my lips.
'Not her. Me. I want to know. Why four copies of Jude the Obscure?'
'Me and my mates.'
'Most kids don't care. Most kids play truant. Couldn't you just have played truant during English?'
'We like English.'
I shouldn't have said that. It narrowed it down. He pretended I hadn't given anything away. He said, 'Good. You can study for a degree in jail.'
I started to drink my orangeade. He snatched the glass off me.
'Who? Name names.'
'They've got them on camera.'
'So they don't need me to tell.'
'Holly Gill, Emma Wilson, Lucy O'Hara ...?'
He should have been a detective. He should have been something. Then he wouldn't have been here. Spending his life at the kitchen table in a puff of smoke. Offering me his scraggy old books. I wanted something new. Mine. I kept remembering that time I'd spread his books on the carpet, and he'd said, These were the ones. The ones I liberated.
'What about you? You used to liberate books.'
'That was then. This is now.'
'Liberated. The word's ... gone from the language. And ... it was different. We thought we were on the edge of something, something better. We thought the world was going to be a better place. New ... social arrangements.'
He bashed a teabag round the cup.
'You could be expelled.'
I cared and I didn't care. I cared when I got caught. I cared in the car. I cared when I saw Mum's and Dad's stupid pathetic faces. But now, I was only sorry I was an unsuccessful liberator. I was only sorry it was just books. I hated him for ever liberating books. I hated him for stopping.
He squeezed the teabags. I passed him the milk.
'You make a statement. You've got no choice now. You were caught red-handed.'
Cliché. I didn't say it, but I looked it.
'You tell her what you told me. And ... if they were your friends they wouldn't have left you. You're an idiot.'
'You keep saying that.'
'I know one when I see one.'
It should have been, like heightened experience. Like, this is happening to me. This is happening to me, now.
But it wasn't. This rhyme kept coming back to me. Dad had pinned it on the back of the kitchen door and now I didn't just know it, I Knew It. The look of it, the curly scrawl of it.
The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
'You shouldn't steal from bookshops,' he said. 'Like you shouldn't steal from ... You shouldn't steal from bookshops.'
'I was wrong. You're supposed to be smarter.'
'Says who? And anyway ... if I'd come home with a diamond ring that would have been all right, would it?'
'No! Are you determined to throw your chances away?'
'I'm not supposed to have chances. I'm not supposed to do well. I'm supposed to play truant. I'm supposed to fail.'
Mum came in, looking to see what had happened to the tea. She made me carry the cup of tea to the policewoman. As if that was gonna make some difference. As if she's gonna say, Oh thanks for the tea. It's such a good cup of tea that we'll leave it at that, shall we?
The copper took a sip from the tea. It was too strong for her. She said, 'Right, Rachel. I'll take your statement now.'
They both looked at me. They all looked at me. Waiting.
'I needed books for school. I needed Jude the Obscure, Twelfth Night and that anthology. I needed to be able to read them. Learn them.'
It was supposed to be my statement, but Mum butted in, saying how I'd always been a reader and they'd never had the money for electronic stuff and computer games. That I was in the junior library, and how upset I was that time I got butter on Haddock 'n' Chips.
The policewoman waited till Mum had finished.
'And had you planned this, Rachel? You and your friends. Or was it spur of the moment? You had £2.50 on you.'
'I knew what they cost. I'd already checked the price. I didn't have enough money.'
'So you planned it?'
I said, 'It was premeditated.'
Dad looked as if he was gonna do his jungle act. Mum put her head in her hands. Visual cliché.
'Premeditated, between you? You and the other girls?'
I suddenly thought that maybe I should use all sorts of words that I could later claim weren't my vocabulary and then I could say the statement was fabricated. Or maybe I could just leave the country. I said nothing.
'Will you tell me who the other girls were? Are they girls from your school? Your class?'
'What other girls?'
Mum said, 'Rachel!'
'Have you taken other things ... before?'
We'd planned to. Often enough. We'd planned to form a ring: clothes, jewellery, credit cards. We'd sometimes imagine what we'd do if someone approached us like you saw on telly. I mean people usually thieved it to support a habit. If you didn't have a habit, you could be quids in.
'Are you sure?'
'So why today? Why these books?'
'Couldn't afford them. Needed them.'
She stopped writing. 'It's unusual,' she said. 'Teenagers don't usually steal books. Not even university students steal books.'
'I want a good education,' I said. I glared at Dad.
She wrote that down. Was she going to write everything down? Like the jurors in Alice in Wonderland?
'You're refusing to name the other girls?'
'Is there anything else you'd like to add to this statement?'
They all waited. Actually, there wasn't, but then I had to think of something.
I said, 'Education is something they can't take away from you. That's why they don't want us to have it.'
I thought Dad was smiling, but he was crying. Like really crying.CHAPTER 2
N. J. Cooper is an ex-publisher and former chair of the CWA. She writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. As Natasha Cooper, she has written many novels, including the Willow King series and the Trish Maguire novels. Four more recent books feature the forensic psychologist Karen Taylor.
You think I'd be angry, wouldn't you? Or terrified? But I wasn't. Even I was surprised that the only sentence in my mind when they told me was: I thought so.
I hadn't exactly felt ill, but I had known something was wrong. At first, when I realised my jeans didn't feel so snug and I got on the scales and saw I'd lost nearly a stone, I was pleased. Who wouldn't be? But over the next few months, as I forgot what hunger felt like and realised how tired simply leaving the house made me, I knew.
It's not as though there was no guide. My mother had had it and so had hers, which made it more or less inevitable for me. It's one of those that creeps up on you unawares until it's got so big that it starts to press on other bits, and only then does it hurt enough to make you understand there's something wrong. At first I thought it was wind. Then I knew. But you still have to go through all the hoops – tests, and more tests – before it becomes real and public. Ovarian cancer.
I was luckier than my mum; she was only 56 when it got her. I'm past 70; not much past and it's not exactly your business how much past. In every other way I'm incredibly lucky. I've had a fantastic career, doing precisely what I wanted; I had a kind and funny husband for forty years before his heart attack (and mercifully that was instant so he didn't have the long slow slide into death we all dread), and two gorgeous daughters. They're well away into their own lives, as they should be, and know nothing about this.
I've written formal letters to the police and the coroner, explaining everything, but this is a fuller version for anyone who needs to read it.
I had to watch my poor mother stagger through four awful years, full of chemo and radio, only to feel the tumour come back, so that she had to have more treatment, feel it come back again, and be faced with yet more treatment before they gave her the verdict: nothing more we can do. Why did she have to go through so much misery and pain and exhaustion when the ending was inevitable?
I don't want that. I don't want to go to Switzerland either. Why should I? It's inhumane that a sentient adult, who has had control of every other aspect of her life, should not be allowed to deal with this in whatever way she chooses.
Again I'm luckier than lots of people. My mobility isn't impaired. Nor my mind. I can find out how much of what to take, open my own bottles as I choose and mash things up and swallow the resulting brew on my own. I don't need any help.
But I've discovered I do want to have company when I do it. Without friends, it might be like standing in an empty desert, with howling winds and sand blowing into my eyes. I just don't know. So I'm not going to risk it.
There's peace afterwards. I do know that. Once my brain has shut down – been shut down by the mashed-up brew I'll make – I know there'll be nothing: no more pain; no fear; none of the terrors invented by the powerful to keep the powerless at bay.
All that will be left of the person who is me will be memories in other people's brains. And that's the only monument I want: good memories for my family and friends; not memories of me ill, muddled up with their own anxieties about whether they did enough for me.
But in the actual moment of swallowing and then waiting for the brew to work, I think I may need my beloved friends around me. Hence the party.
One of the most comforting things I've found is re-reading John Buchan's Sick Heart River, in which Sir Edward Leithen, another lawyer funnily enough, faces up to what's coming to him and thinks that he wants to die on his feet, 'as Vespasian said an emperor should'. I've always liked that and now I'm ill too I like it still more, even though it's a bit sexist. Vespasian's thought, I mean. If a man should die on his feet, why shouldn't a woman?
You may be thinking that it's got to my brain already and I'm rambling unnecessarily, but it hasn't. I just want you to understand exactly why I'm doing it like this, why I'm not giving any of my friends any warning. I don't want them trying to persuade me out of it and I don't want them to be found guilty of any kind of complicity. That's in the letters to the police and the coroner too. My beloved friends won't know anything about it until it's too late.
Excerpted from Guilty Parties by Martin Edwards. Copyright © 2014 Martin Edwards. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword – Alison Joseph,
Introduction – Martin Edwards,
Hey Jude – Frances Brody,
Deadline – N.J. Cooper,
The Death of Spiders – Bernie Crosthwaite,
Moments Musicaux – Judith Cutler,
A Liberating Affair – Carol Anne Davis,
A Glimpse of Hell – Martin Edwards,
The Confessions of Edward Prime – Kate Ellis,
Tell it to the Bees – Jane Finnis,
Pacified – Christopher Fowler,
The Franklin's Second Tale – Paul Freeman,
Second Chance – John Harvey,
All Yesterday's Parties – Paul Johnston,
Party of Two – Ragnar Jónasson,
Reader, I Buried Them – Peter Lovesey,
The Last Guilty Party – Phil Lovesey,
What's the Time, Mr Wolf? – Christine Poulson,
The Wide Open Sky – Kate Rhodes,
Skeleton Crew – Chris Simms,
Flatmate Wanted: Smokers Welcome – C.L. Taylor,
Director's Cut – Aline Templeton,
Like Father, Like Son – Ricki Thomas,
Giving Something Back – L.C. Tyler,
The Art of Old Age – Yvonne Eve Walus,
The Man in the Next Bed – Laura Wilson,