|Publisher:||Hale, Robert & Company, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By James Raven
Robert Hale LimitedCopyright © 2012 James Raven
All rights reserved.
Two days ago
My wife and I had a row that afternoon. It was over the usual thing – money. Or rather, the lack of it.
We were six weeks away from Christmas and Maggie suddenly decided that we should spend it on a Caribbean cruise. There was a great offer in the paper, she said. We could pay for it on one of our credit cards.
When I pointed out that we'd reached the limit on all of the cards, she suggested we use the last of our savings, a measly £5,000 in a Barclays ISA account.
I said it wasn't a good idea because the way the business was going we'd almost certainly need it in the not too distant future.
And that's when it kicked off.
It was all my fault, she said. If I hadn't been made redundant ... If I hadn't invested all our money in the news agency ... If I hadn't talked her out of going back to work when she had that job offer a year ago....
Sadly, it was all true, but having it rammed down my throat every time we had words really didn't help the situation or do much for my self-esteem.
Maggie was right to blame me for our current financial woes and I could understand why she was stressed out most of the time. I'd had a great job as a reporter on a national newspaper. An annual salary of over seventy grand. A generous pension. Two foreign holidays a year. Meals out twice a week. We were set to send our six-year-old daughter to a private school. Life was good. Money wasn't a problem.
But then I was made redundant and the cold wind of recession that was blowing through the newspaper industry meant that I couldn't get a job on another paper. There were cutbacks everywhere and it didn't help that I had just turned forty. There were younger, cheaper and frankly brighter journalists out there, eager to fill the few vacancies that did come up.
Deciding to invest my redundancy pot in a news agency with my long time friend Vince Mayo was, with hindsight, not the wisest of moves. Maggie had advised against it, but I had ploughed on regardless and the Southern News Agency was created eighteen months ago.
According to the business plan we should have been turning a healthy profit by now. But it hadn't worked out so well. We were barely making a living covering court cases for the regional press, flogging occasional features to magazines, and filing human interest stories that too frequently got rejected by the national news editors.
We were still waiting for that big exclusive story that would put the agency firmly on the map and secure us a regular stream of lucrative commissions. There was one story that came close. A police-corruption tale that we sold to the Mail on Sunday. But it backfired somewhat after the detective in question committed suicide. His colleagues blamed us and we received a bunch of anonymous hate mail. At the same time the local CID closed ranks and made life difficult for us. It meant that we lost a valuable source of local stories – the lifeblood of a freelance operation. In terms of income it ran into thousands of pounds a year.
So Maggie had every right to feel that I'd let her down. Money was tight and the quality of our life had taken a huge tumble. It had made her increasingly tense. Lately she'd been more off with me than usual and even our sex life had suffered. Headaches. Period pains. Hormonal stuff. She'd been coming up with every kind of excuse to avoid getting intimate with me.
She needed to get a job. Before she married me she'd worked in advertising. But the agencies and the newspaper ad departments were not recruiting. Her frustration was all the more acute because I'd persuaded her to turn down a job offer from an agency in London on the grounds that the commute from our home in Southampton was a killer and it wouldn't be fair on Laura. Now, of course, I wished I'd kept my mouth shut.
The argument that afternoon was mild compared with some we'd had. Raised voices rather than screams and angry rants. But it put a dampener on the day and filled the house with tension.
Luckily, Laura hadn't been around to hear her parents having a go at each other. She'd been out with her grandmother on one of their frequent Saturday excursions into town. By the time they got back Maggie and I were talking again. I'd agreed to think about going away for Christmas, but not on a costly cruise. Maybe a bargain break at a country hotel in Devon or Cornwall. I'd promised to look into it.
After Laura went to bed we settled into our usual Saturday night routine. Light dinner. Bottle of wine. Feet up in front of the television ready for the national lottery draw. The house was calm once again, the friction replaced by feelings of warmth and security. It was how it was meant to be. Cosy, safe, content. The serene face of family life.
It was a triple rollover week on the lottery, with an estimated jackpot of £18 million – the biggest prize for several years. Like everyone else I was hoping that this time, despite those incredible odds, our numbers would come up.
'I have a feeling that our luck is about to change, Danny,' Maggie said.
I smiled at the glow of anticipation in her wide green eyes.
'Eighteen million pounds,' I said. 'It'd solve a lot of our problems at a stroke.'
'And we could have that Caribbean cruise after all.'
'Too right we could.'
Maggie laughed and her face lit up. It lifted my spirits to see her looking so relaxed for a change.
She was wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, my favourite combination. They showed off her ample bosom, flat stomach and long, slender legs. She always looked much younger than her thirty-eight years, thanks largely to regular visits to the gym and a strict low-carb diet. Her skin had a brilliant lustre to it and her eyes were the colour of new spring leaves.
We were just a couple of months shy of our eighth wedding anniversary, having met just over nine years ago when she came to work in the advertising department of the Southampton Evening Post. Vince and I both fancied the pants off her. But I was the one who asked her out, much to his disappointment.
The courtship was quick and passionate. Cosy dinners, weekend breaks, unbelievable sex. After six months she moved out of her rented flat in Basingstoke and into my two-bedroom house in Southampton. We were married a year later and honeymooned on the glorious island of Santorini. Two years on Laura was born.
I was now keen to have another child, but Maggie said she wasn't ready and that was another issue we sometimes argued about.
'Here we go,' she said. 'Have you got the ticket?'
I held it up. 'Of course.'
On TV the familiar countdown began and the little numbered balls started jumping up and down in that strange perspex contraption. I sat with pencil poised as the lottery numbers were called out.
I wondered just how many people were watching the draw with us. Millions, most likely. Many had probably already worked out how they were going to spend the money if they won.
I could imagine what people were wishing for. A top-of-the-range car. A new house for mum and dad. A wardrobe of designer clothes from those ludicrously expensive shops in London's Bond Street. A luxury holiday on some exotic island.
Some would be hoping to clear their debts. Others would be telling themselves that they would give most of it away to charity.
And there'd be those who'd be insisting that even £18 million wouldn't change their lives. They'd still aim to get up at the crack of dawn to go to work and act like being rich was no big thing.
Others would be telling themselves that the odds on their winning were so astronomical that they wished they hadn't wasted the money on the ticket.
By now most would realize that their dreams had been shattered, at least until the midweek draw on Wednesday.
The bonus ball was thirty-nine.
As always it was over in a flash. A cruel let down. Hopes dashed. I couldn't help feeling like I'd been duped.
I showed the ticket to Maggie, who sat there clutching her glass of wine with a long face.
'Look at that. Five lines and only one of the numbers came up.'
She heaved a sigh. 'So it's not our lucky night after all.'
We hadn't really expected to win, of course, but we'd made ourselves believe that we might. It was all part of the lottery thrill. The great hype.
I leaned over and kissed Maggie on the cheek.
'Don't worry, honey. There's always next time.'
I was doing that a lot lately. Trying to reassure her about the future because I didn't want her to become even more distant and resentful. She gave a smile that dimpled her cheeks. Her teeth were white as mints.
'Of course there is,' she said.
I smiled back. Her eyes were like marbles, clear and round and perfect. But there was also the dull glimmer of disappointment.
And then the phone rang.
'It's probably Mum,' she said. 'Checking to see if we've made up.'
Maggie's mother was a widow who lived alone in Fareham, a few miles east of Southampton. She doted on Laura and fretted if she thought that perfect harmony did not prevail in the Cain household.
Maggie crossed the room to answer the phone. She lifted the receiver and said hello. I watched her smile, then frown. She suddenly drew breath, her eyes flicking towards me.
Then she held out the receiver.
'It's Vince, for you. He says he's won the lottery and he's going to make us rich.'CHAPTER 2
'Is this a wind-up?' I said into the phone.
'No way,' Vince replied. 'It's the truth, honest.'
'Let me get this straight,' I said. 'You're telling me you've got all six numbers on the lottery?'
'Exactly. I've checked and double checked and it's the big one.'
'I don't believe you.'
'I'm not kidding, Danny. I've hit the jackpot. And since you're my best friend and business partner I'm going to make you a millionaire.'
'Are you drunk?'
'Don't be daft. I'm as sober as a judge.'
'Well you sound drunk.'
'That's because I've just won eighteen million quid.'
I still wasn't sure how to react. Could it possibly be true? Had Vince won the grand prize? Or was he having fun at my expense?
'This had better not be a joke,' I warned him.
'I swear on my mother's life it's true. I wouldn't joke about something like this.'
'Your mother is dead, Vince. And so is your father.'
'On your life then,' he said. 'You know I wouldn't say that if it wasn't true. So get your arse over here pronto and see for yourself. I'm cracking open the champagne.'
'Are you at home?'
'Of course I'm bloody well at home. Where do you think I'm calling from?'
I hesitated. Vince lived in the New Forest and it was too far to go on a Saturday night for no good reason.
'You won't be wasting your time, Danny,' he said. 'You're like a brother to me and I want to share this moment with you.'
I took a long breath and made up my mind.
'OK, I'll be there in about an hour. But I'll kill you if this is a stitch-up.'
He was chuckling to himself as I hung up the phone and turned to Maggie.
Despite the doubts that raged through me I couldn't suppress the excitement that began plucking at my nerve endings. I actually found it hard to swallow.
'He's adamant,' I said. 'He says his six numbers match.'
We stared at each other. Maggie was breathing heavily through parted lips. Her arms hung stiffly at her sides and her fists were clenched. She was struggling to control herself.
'I'd better go over,' I said.
'Do you want me to come?'
'No. You stay here with Laura. As soon as I know the truth I'll call you. But look, don't hold your breath. Vince could be having a laugh at our expense.'
'But what if he's not kidding? What if he's won eighteen million pounds?'
At last I managed to swallow. It was like a huge lump forcing its way into my throat.
'Even if he has got all the numbers he might not be the only one,' I pointed out. 'There could be dozens of people with the same numbers.'
'But what if there aren't? What if he's won the lot?'
I knew what she meant. A windfall would make a big difference right now, what with my business so crap and money so tight.
At that moment a sound came from upstairs. Laura was calling out. She had obviously woken up and couldn't get back to sleep.
'You get ready,' Maggie said. 'I'll go and see to Laura.'
We both went upstairs. I was wearing an old, stained T-shirt so I put on a clean one and brushed my hair. Pausing briefly in front of the mirror, I noted that I needed a haircut. My light brown hair was sticking out round the ears. I'd also put on weight. Only a few pounds, but enough to convince me that I needed to exercise more and eat fewer takeaways.
Would that be easy to do if I was suddenly a millionaire?
I went into Laura's room with its array of cuddly toys and cartoon-character posters. The carpet was shaggy beige and the walls were of muted lemon. Maggie was sitting on the edge of the bed, stroking Laura's forehead. Laura was lying beneath the duvet, her face bathed in the soft pink glow from the Pooh Bear lamp.
'Is she OK?' I asked.
'She's fine. Woke from a bad dream. Then Max upset her.'
Laura's eyes were barely open but when she saw me she managed a weak smile. As always it made me feel good. I smiled back and pinched her small nose which was slightly upturned and sprinkled with freckles.
'Where is Max, sweetheart?' I asked.
'He's sitting on the chair,' she said sleepily. 'He wants to play but I'm too tired. I just want to go back to sleep.'
'Well I'm sure that if you close your eyes and ignore him he'll go back into the cupboard like he always does.'
'But what if he doesn't?'
'Then you tell him he has to. You're the boss, don't forget.'
Max was Laura's imaginary friend. He'd appeared about a year ago and she'd named him after our pet cat that died about the same time. Maggie was less concerned than I was over the strange, invisible companion who had moved into our house. A child psychiatrist told us it was pretty common and not to worry. She'll grow out of it, he said. Just give her time.
But I'd never been comfortable with Max. I didn't like laying an extra place for him at the table or listening to Laura talk to him like he really existed. To me it was all pretty creepy. Still, Laura seemed happy enough so I played along in the hope that she would soon grow out of this phase in her life.
Maggie leaned over and gave Laura a loud, wet kiss on the cheek. 'Just think what it will mean for this one, Danny. If Vince is going to share his winnings with you then she'll never have to worry about money or getting on the ruddy housing ladder. She'll be set up for life.'
It was a comforting thought, but one I was still reluctant to entertain. I needed rock-solid confirmation before I would allow myself to get too carried away.
'Don't call anyone,' I said. 'Not yet anyway. Let's just wait and see.'
Maggie nodded. She knew what I meant. The temptation to spread the news would be unbearable during the next fifty minutes, which was about how long it would take me to get to Vince's place in the forest.
'Don't forget to call me as soon as you've seen the ticket,' she said.
'Of course I will, but don't be too disappointed if I have to tell you that we're not going to be rich after all.'
'I won't. I promise.'
I gave them both a hug and slipped out of the room.CHAPTER 3
Vince Mayo was indeed my best friend and partner. We'd known each other for fourteen years. He was a thirty-nine-year-old confirmed bachelor who had quite a serious addiction to gambling. He'd had a string of girlfriends, the latest the attractive daughter of a high-ranking police officer in Southampton, and he'd lost a small fortune in betting shops and casinos.
We first met when I joined the Post as a reporter. He'd already been there two years, having moved from a local rag in Portsmouth where he allegedly got the married news editor pregnant. We got on well and from the start a rapport developed between us.
Despite his laid-back attitude to life he was a fine writer and a diligent, hard-nosed journalist. But he lacked ambition and never felt inclined, unlike me, to make his name on a national newspaper.
Even when I left to spend five years on the Daily Mail we stayed in touch. When I was made redundant he was there to console me. And he was on hand when my failure to get another job took me to the verge of depression.
Excerpted from Rollover by James Raven. Copyright © 2012 James Raven. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I too read the hardback edition of this book and I have to say it's one of the best crime novels I've ever read. The pace is relentless from the opening page and it doesn't let up. The narrative is rich and full of details about an area of the UK I'm not familiar with. The story revolves around a huge lottery win and a journalist named Danny Cain who has to go on the run from both the police and a sadistic killer. It would make a great movie.
This is a cracking book. I read the hardback version on a flight between the UK and the States and could not put it down. The tension is incredible and the plot highly original. It starts with a man being murdered after he scoops a huge lottery win. From then on the action is non stop and it builds to a sensational climax. Highly recommended.
Rollover is a roller-coaster of a book. It's fast moving and exceptionally well written. It kicks off with a mega lottery win which leads to a gruesome murder and the kidnap of an innocent family. There are surprises galore and I agree with another reviewer who said it would make a great film.