Here is the back cover blurb and opening chapter of my soon to be published, murder mystery novel, 'Searching for Scarlet'.
Back Page Blurb for S4S
Set in modern day Los Angeles, this is the first case for a new private detective partnership of Sabine, an ex-LAPD lieutenant, and Jordan, an ex-professional Rugby League player from England with a Masters in Criminal Psychology. Sandi, an UCLA student has gone missing, presumed murdered, Sabine and Jordan are asked work on the case by a mysterious friend of Sandi’s, called Scarlet.
Scarlet proves to be just as elusive as Sandi, with the detectives never able to find either of them. The police get a confession to the murders of both girls, but this case has seemed strange from the start and even the confession doesn’t signal the end of the investigating for Sabine and Jordan. What they discover is more bizarre than either of them could’ve imagined, and ultimately ends with them siding with the perpetrator of the ingenious crime.
‘Cold’ is the duo’s second case. A young woman, obsessed with suicide, is found dead in her home from an overdose. The police write it off as a suicide immediately, but there are too many things that don’t make sense for Sabine and Jordan to give up that quickly on finding out for sure who killed her.
Dear Doctor Hall,
I’m sorry to take up your time, but I think a friend of mine might be in danger. From what I’ve heard, you could be the best person to ask for help. The last few weeks I’ve noticed her become increasingly jumpy. I know she’s been having trouble with some guy for a few weeks now, but I’m worried it might be escalating into something horrifically serious. A couple of days ago she seemed totally spooked out by a piece of mail, and when I asked her about it she became extremely defensive and refused to show me the letter. Yesterday, when only I was in, a really creepy looking guy knocked on our door looking for her. I got a scarily bad vibe off him and it was his visit that persuaded me to seek help. None of this is enough to interest the police, but I thought you might like to look into it for me. I can only offer modest financial rewards, but I dearly hope that you will try to help me. If you are interested then please contact me at the email address or come to visit me at the address, both of which are overleaf. Her name is Sandi Lords and she lives with me at that address. She is about to start her third year at UCLA and has a room there too.
‘She certainly seems pretty spooked,’ Sabine Larksson said to Christopher Hall after she’d read the letter.
‘Indeed she does,’ Christopher replied.
‘Hand delivered, she obviously came round hoping to see you.’
‘Considering I’ve got nothing else on for you at the moment, are you intrigued enough to investigate?’
‘Sure, if she’s every reason to be this concerned, then it definitely is worth looking into. And if she’s overreacting greatly, I’m sure I’ll be able to work that out before I waste too much time on her.’
Christopher had been working in and around Los Angeles as a private detective for over forty years. Turning seventy at the start of this year was his cue to get somebody younger to help him with his business.
‘So you want me to go round and see her now?’ Sabine continued the conversation, the two of them sat on patio chairs, overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the back garden of Christopher’s house.
‘Not just yet, your new partner will be here soon so I thought you may as well look into it together.’
‘He’s coming here today?’
‘Don’t let yourself down dear, by asking questions you clearly already know the answer to.’
‘Sorry Doc, so what time are you expecting him?’
‘His plane should have landed about an hour ago, so depending on how on schedule it was and how efficiently he can collect his luggage and make his way here, he could be here any moment now.’
‘Still don’t really see why I need a partner.’
‘Call me old fashioned but I don’t like the idea of a young lady walking the crime ridden streets of LA on her own.’
‘So this ex-ball player guy is just a bodyguard then?’
‘You know full well he’s more than that.’
‘Sorry it’s just that I’ve been asking my friends in England about him and they’ve told me that the game he used to play is one of the most brutal games around and that he had a reputation for outstanding brutality even within the sport.’
‘Sport is such a wonderful thing,’ Christopher talked as if he hadn’t heard Sabine’s latest comment. ‘Great test of character and a great way to reveal it. Besides I’m reliably informed that his on field reputation is in stark contrast to his off field persona.’
‘Oh good, a schizophrenic, brutally inclined ex-sportsman. Another thing is that sportsmen in general, and apparently Rugby League players in particular are not noted for their high IQ’s. If we just wanted some ugly bruiser then there are plenty of them in LA, why you had to get somebody from England when looking for a psychotic, big goof to protect me I’m not entirely sure. I know he’s got a degree in criminal something or other, but how much use is that going to be out on the streets? And if it’s anything like over here then the degree is probably more a representation of his athletic ability than his intelligence.’
‘Criminal psychology, first class degree and a Masters in criminal psychology.’ Sabine heard a voice from behind her and although she’d never met the man before, she knew who had spoken without looking at him. Couldn’t stop herself from turning round.
‘How long have you been standing there?’ Sabine asked looking apologetic. ‘So I know exactly what to apologise for,’ she added with a pleading smile.
‘Given my reputation for outstanding brutality, I can understand your willingness to apologise to me. Or should I say both of us?’ He continued to make Sabine squirm.
‘So you caught the whole show.’
‘Don’t worry about it, given my low IQ I will probably forget all about it really soon. After all I am big, can’t argue with that, plenty of people would agree with the goofy part, Rugby League players in general are not the sharpest tools in the box and you’re certainly not the first person to call me psychotic, ugly is a little harsh but I can sort of see where you’re coming from. Hi Sabine, good to meet you.’
‘Hey Jordan,’ Sabine got up out of the chair and the two of them shook hands and exchanged smiles. ‘I will strike ugly from the record.’
‘Good, because that was the one thing that truly hurt.’
‘As first impressions go, not the best.’
‘Oh I don’t know, lets see; you speak your mind, good with words and have an independent streak that I have to admire.’
‘Biggest case of glass half full ever.’
‘That’s me, always the optimist.’
‘By the way I’m an icy bitch who can be extremely anti-social and have a habit of playing with my hair that some people can find annoying. Just thought I’d tell you that so you can hurl some insults at me whenever you feel like getting even.’
‘I’ll keep it in mind. By the way university sport back home is nothing like over here. Vast majority of sports stars back home don’t get close to going to university. Plus you certainly don’t get any favours from a University if you are good at sport.’
‘Glad to see you kids hitting it off right away,’ Christopher said and got up out of his chair to greet Jordan.
‘Pleasure to finally meet you in person Doctor Hall, I knocked on the door but there was no answer so I thought I’d have a walk round the back,’ the pair of them shook hands.
‘That’s fine, and call me Doc, everyone else does and you’ll just confuse me if you start using different names.’
‘Excellent, I can handle that. Telling people I work for the Doc, that sounds quite cool. There you go, being goofy already.’
‘Trust me it is cool to be working for him,’ Sabine said.
‘Not to mention working along side such and icy bitch,’ Jordan said.
‘There you go, I feel less guilty already.’
‘So what are we doing today?’ Jordan asked.
‘I was just about to go around to a lady’s house to follow up her inquiry letter to the Doc. You can come with me if you want.’
‘Sounds good, that your car out the front? I can throw my things in there and if it’s not too much trouble when we’re done you can drive me to my new place.’
‘I see I could have added; “a little cheeky”, to your list of slight faults.’
‘Considering the abuse you’ve hurled at me already, I thought a lift might be the least you could do.’
‘I’m only joking. Let’s get going. You don’t have to come along if you don’t want you know, give yourself a day or two to get over the jet lag if you want.’
‘Jet lag? Jet lag? Did I hear you right? Jet…….lag? Do you really think I’m going to be stopped in my tracks by jet lag?’
‘Is the macho image something I’m going to have to get used to?’
‘No I promise I won’t be like that!’
Sabine drove Jordan round to the address on the back of the letter. The house was on a beach road and was out on its own, with the nearest house in both directions at least a quarter of a mile away. Jordan read the letter during the car trip, so he knew as much about the case as Sabine did.
‘Odd that she doesn’t leave a phone number,’ Jordan said as Sabine parked her car.
‘Yeah, whole thing seems a bit odd.’
There was no sign of life from within the house, but from peering into the windows the two of them could see that it did look lived in.
‘Don’t suppose we’re at the breaking the door down stage yet?’ Jordan asked.
‘No, not just yet. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for a while to hit something.’
‘All in good time.’
‘Doc’s emailed her already but I’ll leave a card so she can call me,’ Sabine said then slipped one of her cards through the letter box.
‘I love the location of this house,’ Jordan said.
‘Definitely good if you like the quiet life, and that would include me.’
‘So has the term started at UCLA yet?’
‘No, it will start on Monday.’
‘Will it be open yet? The halls of residence or whatever you guys call it. I believe some people come from thousands of miles to go there so it’s not like they’re all going to turn up on Monday morning and not before. Surely the Friday before term starts has a few arrivals.’
‘I’m sure you’re right. You fancy a trip down there to see if there’s any sign of this Sandi girl in her dorm room?’
‘I haven’t got any other plans.’
‘That jet-lag is going to kick in some time and it will kick hard.’
‘When it does I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing me get kicked, but in the mean time let’s get to work.’
When they got to the campus they wandered around for a little while, before being pointed in the direction of where they needed to go to find out where Sandi’s room was located. The lady behind the reception desk was enthusiastically helpful in telling them where Sandi’s room was and told them that she remembered her moving her stuff in the day before yesterday. Sabine and Jordan walked the short distance from the reception to Sandi’s ground floor room. No answer was forthcoming when they knocked on the locked door. At the opposite end of the corridor a man was working on fixing a window.
‘Excuse me, excuse me chief,’ Jordan spoke loudly to get the man’s attention, then beckoned him over. He seemed happy to have an excuse to leave his work alone for a while so wandered towards them. ‘Do you work for the University? Have you got a key for this room?’
‘Yeah I work here, and yeah I’ve got a master key.’
‘Awesome. You see we’re private investigators and we’ve received information that the young lady who lives in this room might be in some danger,’ Jordan explained.
The man looked a little sceptical, but after a close inspection of Sabine’s identification he got out his key and unlocked the door.
Blood, so much blood. There were plenty of other things in the room but the three sets of eyes were all drawn to the blood and each of them struggled to pull their glare away from the blood. Blood covered the white bed sheets and there was a splattering of blood up the wall and spots of blood on the carpet next to the bed.
Opening chapter of ‘Cold’:
The Doc was sat in his favourite arm chair, reading through the newspaper reports on the previous day’s baseball games. His relaxing morning was interrupted by a frantic knocking on his front door. After considering ignoring it for a fraction of a second, he made his way slowly to the door, by the time he had reached it there had been another two lots of equally frantic knocking.
‘Are you Doctor Hall?’ A young, out of breath, red faced woman asked, with her long hair all in a mess.
‘Indeed I am. Wonderfully inventions aren’t they?’
‘What?’ The Doc’s response was so ambiguous that for the slightest moment it even took her mind off the reason for her visit.
‘Doorbells, don’t you think?’
‘Oh sorry Doctor.’
‘Not to worry, why don’t you calm down a little and explain why you have come to my humble abode.’
‘It’s my best friend, she’s just been accused of killing someone and I just know she didn’t do it.’
‘Who has she supposed to have killed?’
Sabine and Jordan got out of her car on the Doc’s driveway, then headed round the back of his house to his ocean view garden.
‘Ah, here’s my A-team now,’ the Doc said as soon as they came into his view.
‘We’re your only team,’ Sabine said.
‘Then you’re definitely the best then.’
‘What’s this case you’ve got for us?’ Sabine asked.
‘This is Fiona,’ the Doc did the introductions, Sabine and Jordan shook hands with Fiona, then all four of them sat around the Doc’s patio table. ‘You tell them everything you’ve told me Fiona.’
‘This is so hard, I have to warn you that I will cry.’
‘That’s all right honey, take your time and we’ll do whatever we can to help you,’ Sabine tried to put her at ease.
‘This morning I went round to see my best friend, we’d arranged to meet so we could go shopping,’ Fiona took a couple of deep breaths and wiped each eye. ‘I knocked on the door a couple of times but there was no answer. Thinking that maybe she’d overslept or was in the shower, I tried the door and it was unlocked. There was no sound coming from anywhere so I figured she must be asleep. When I got to the bedroom, that’s when I saw her,’ some tears rolled down both her cheeks and she paused for a few moments. ‘She was laid out on her bed, face up, still in her regular clothes. There was no sign of any movement at all and she looked even paler than normal. I panicked completely, tried checking for a pulse, but wasn’t even sure I was doing it right. Then I called for an ambulance. I knew before they told me, she was dead. They seemed confident that she had died from an overdose and there was a bottle open with just a few pills in it. Within a minute of the police arriving they had written it off as a suicide. I just know Nadia wouldn’t have killed herself. I called her brother as soon as I found out, he’s a corporate lawyer in New York. He told me that he’d cover the costs of any investigation. When the police arrived at Nadia’s place I asked the officer in charge if he knew of any good private investigators and he said that the Doc and you guys were the best.’
Sabine and Jordan took in every word Fiona said and couldn’t help but be caught up in the emotion she spoke with.
‘I for one am more than happy to look into this,’ Sabine said, looking at Fiona, then Jordan and the Doc.
‘Count me in,’ Jordan added. ‘You want us to start right away?’ He asked the Doc.
‘No time like the present. I suspect the police will still be going over the room, so all should still be in place.’
‘Fiona, can we give you a ride to Nadia’s place? That way you can direct us properly,’ Sabine said.
‘Yeah sure, I guess so.’
‘You don’t have to come in with us,’ Jordan said.
‘Thanks, I don’t think I could handle being in there again.’
By the time Sabine and Jordan got to Nadia’s apartment, the police were just about finished looking over the apartment. It would remain sealed off to the public, but Sabine and the Doc’s connections meant that she and Jordan were allowed without any problems. Fiona definitely didn’t want to go into the apartment again, she made the short walk to her own place. Sabine checked with Fred, who was the officer in charge, how the police were handling it, he told her that it most definitely looked like a suicide and for now at least, that’s how they were going to look at it. Just before Nadia was put into a body bag, Sabine and Jordan entered her bedroom, all gloved up. Her gothic look, along with the half empty bottles of bourbon and pills on the floor, did nothing to prevent people from thinking she might have committed suicide.
‘Younger they are, the more tragic it always seems,’ Sabine said as she looked at Nadia’s body with Jordan.
‘Barely into her twenties, seems totally unfathomable. The only time I can understand suicide is if someone is guilty about something they’ve done, can’t imagine someone so young doing something that would make them feel that guilty.’
‘We’re here trying to prove it’s not a suicide remember?’
‘Oh absolutely, not saying I’ve made my mind up already. One thing’s for sure, if this is a murder made to look like a suicide, then the killer has certainly chosen the perfect victim,’ Jordan added as he looked around the room.
‘Yeah, the black walls, black jeans and black ripped t-shirt don’t exactly give off a happy vibe,’ Sabine replied. ‘Plus the Kurt Cobain poster, oh and Janis Joplin.’
‘And Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra and even Thich Quang Duc.’
‘Without wishing to live up to any ignorant American stereotype; who’s that what now?’
‘Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. He was protesting against the President’s oppression of Buddhists, so he sat down in the middle of a busy road, covered himself in petrol and set fire to himself. Nobody who witnessed it heard him make any sound.’
‘You know how much I hate pigeon holing people, but sometimes the stuff you know can really freak me out.’
‘Get that a lot, nobody expects somebody as athletically talented as me, not to mention good to look at, to have any great knowledge or intelligence.’
‘That’s possibly the most self praise filled sentence I’ve ever heard!’ Sabine said with a little smile.
‘Okay let’s add arrogance to my list of qualities,’ Jordan said as he was looking at Nadia’s bookshelves. ‘This is amazing.’
‘I’d say she has just about anything that Ernest Hemmingway, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf ever had published.’
‘All of which committed suicide?’
‘See, you do have knowledge!’
‘I knew about Hemmingway and Plath, I was just counting on you not bluffing about Woolf. Back tracking for a second, Cleopatra committed suicide?’
‘That’s one unsubstantiated theory anyway, something to do with a snake.’
‘Take your word for it. So are you saying you think it is a suicide?’
‘I’m saying it looks like a suicide. Put me in a pair of long shorts, sleeveless top, a pair of Nike boots and I’d look like a basketball player, but I’m never going to grace the NBA with my presence.’
‘So you think it might be a case that looks most definitely like one thing but is actually something else?’
‘Just the sort of case we like.’
‘Absolutely,’ Sabine said and left the bedroom, and headed for the kitchen. ‘Consider me intrigued,’ she said on her return to the bedroom.
‘What have you found?’
‘An extremely well stocked kitchen, with plenty of fresh food, that looks to have been bought yesterday.’
‘And why would a person planning to kill themselves stock up on food?’ Jordan realised the reason for the intrigue.
‘Exactly. Not enough for the cops, but more than enough for me.’
‘And me, we don’t need much do we?! Hang on, here’s something else,’ he added just after opening the drawer in a bedside table. ‘Tickets for the Dodgers game on Friday night and a rock concert the night after.’
‘We absolutely have to take this case now.’
‘I suppose it could still be a spur of the moment type suicide.’
‘Not from what Fred was saying. She’s supposed to have left a note on some website where people with suicidal thoughts chat away in cyberspace. The note makes it sound like it’s been something she has been planning for a little while.’
‘I’m way beyond intrigued now. Where’s her computer?’
‘The cops have taken it, just as procedure. I’m sure they won’t want it for long. In the mean time we can go round to my place and check this website out.’
‘These excuses for getting me to your place are getting thinner and thinner.’
‘You wish they were excuses! We’ll stop off at the station on the way and tell Fred we’ll be taking the case.’
Sabine drove herself and Jordan round to her old headquarters. Scorching September temperatures meant that either the top of her car had to be down or the air conditioning had to be on full. She knew that the air conditioning would probably keep them cooler, but just loved driving around with the top down, so that was the option she went for.
‘I’ll go and talk to Fred, you can go and get us some lunch, or dinner whatever you want to call it,’ Sabine said as she switched the engine off.
‘Yes ma’am, what do you want on your butty?’
‘Butty, oh I still love that word. Some sort of chicken will be fine, and a coffee.’
‘It ever get too hot for you to drink coffee?’
Ever since she had left the LAPD, Sabine always enjoyed walking through the corridors there that bit more than she used to, feeling a lot less stressed and more in control of her life than she had done as a police officer. Plus it was days like this where the more lax dress code was greatly appreciated. She knocked on Fred’s office door and gently pushed it open.
‘Come on in, oh hey Sabine,’ Fred welcomed her in. ‘Let me guess, you’re taking the case of the suicidal chick who committed suicide?’
‘You know me so well. I’m just checking whether you guys are going to look into it at all?’
‘Let’s see, a Goth girl, obsessed with suicide, who spent a lot of time chatting on the internet about suicide, dies in her own apartment and she’s written a long suicide note on her own computer. You can call it jumping the gun if you want, but yeah we are going to call it a suicide.’
‘We found plenty of fresh food in her kitchen and tickets to a ball game and a rock concert at the weekend in her bedroom.’
‘That just doesn’t make any sense! Newsflash Sabine, suicidal people tend not to be the most logical of thinkers.’
‘I’m not saying that she definitely didn’t commit suicide, it’s just that I think it’s worth investigating.’
‘I don’t know what it’s like to be an exciting private investigator, but as a police force, we can’t afford to go on wild goose chases, when there are lots of real crimes to solve. If we find something that looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, we have to call it a duck.’
‘Enough with the ornithology already. Fine by us, you’d have only got in our way.’
‘I’m sure we would have.’
‘Can we have her cell phone and a copy of the key to her apartment?’
‘Yeah I suppose so.’
‘And her lap top when you’re finished with it?’
‘Sure as long as you look after it, we should be done with it by the end of today.’
‘That’s great, could you give me a call when you’re done? I’ll run on by and pick it up. Have you dusted the bottle of bourbon and the pill bottle for prints?’
‘Of course we have and there was only one set on both bottles, that of the victim. Yes I’ll give you a call when we’re done with the laptop, now let me get back to work.’
‘Of course, you get back to your real crimes,’ Sabine said and turned and started to head out of Fred’s office.
‘Have I mentioned that you’re always welcome back here? The chief says there’ll always be a job for you,’ Fred said as Sabine was walking away.
‘Once or twice Fred. I’ll keep it in mind, don’t be holding your breath now,’ Sabine said without turning round as she walked.
And here’s the website links to buy from:
Barnes and Noble: http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=searching+for+scarlet+rob+watson&page=index&prod=univ&choice=book&query=Searching+for+Scarlet+Rob+Watson&flag=False&ugrp=1