Here’s a tantalising glimpse of chapter 1 of ‘Frozen in Crime’ (final edit). Enjoy!
Frozen in Crime
Chapter 1 White World
Christopher stared out across the car park. A layer of ice had formed where the compacted snow had been polished by car treads and people’s feet, and since lunchtime he had already witnessed two minor collisions and seen an ambulance arrive for someone who had fallen on the zebra crossing and couldn’t get up. The sky was darkening already, and he suspected it would snow again before nightfall.
Worst of all, he had Jock McLean in his office wittering on about something or other.
‘… to the Canary Islands, so she can’t get anybody else over Christmas at short notice, and I’m going to go up there and help.’
The word ‘help’ didn’t feature very prominently in Jock’s vocabulary – particularly when it came to him helping someone else – so Christopher glanced away from the window, frowning. ‘Who’s this you’re planning to help? And do they know about you?’
Jock sighed, flung himself into Christopher’s swivel chair and spun it round. His feet didn’t touch the ground. ‘I knew you hadn’t been listening again. Well, I don’t see why I should waste my time talking to you! I’m off to the Queen of Scots. Last time this year.’
‘The last time this year? But – the Hogmanay Party?’
The Queen of Scots Hogmanay Party was a legend for miles around. People still talked in hushed tones about the good old days and how the army had once been called in to break up a particularly vicious arm-wrestling contest between the women of Pitkirtly and those of Torryburn.
‘Hmph!’ Jock commented. ‘If you’ve seen one Hogmanay Party, you’ve seen them all. Anyway, Rosie’s got a few friends coming round. They know how to party in those remote places.’
‘Ah,’ said Christopher, unsure if Jock had the right end of the stick about rural partying customs. Still, at least he now knew Jock was heading for the cattery, run by Dave’s niece Rosie, so he wouldn’t have to go right back to the beginning of the story. ‘What about Darren? Doesn’t he work there any more?’
Jock gave a long-suffering sigh, and swung his feet to and fro. He looked small and hunched in the chair. ‘I knew you hadn’t been listening. Darren’s away to the Canary Islands. He won a prize in a competition. In some cat magazine. He’s going off with his mother.’
Christopher still didn’t know what to make of this. Was Jock’s plan to help at the cattery a way of getting his own back at Darren’s mother, Tricia Laidlaw, whom he always thought Jock fancied more than a little, or could it be that he had tired of Tricia and decided to make a play for Rosie instead? Or was he just making a bid for martyrdom by having to work over Christmas?
Where was Amaryllis when he needed her? Jock’s romantic life, apart from being an area Christopher preferred not to think about and was wary about entering at all, was far too complicated for anyone who hadn’t been a secret agent to understand. Apart from that, Christopher had been hoping she would pop in today as she sometimes did on a Friday, and instead he had got stuck with Jock.
Christopher turned back to look out of the window again. Even then he could see Jock’s reflection shining in the glass. There was no escape from him.
Something banged sharply outside. He peered out. There was a commotion near the supermarket at the far side of the car park. People running away, screaming, falling over in a heap. After a moment, two figures in black ran round the end of the building and dodged in and out among the cars. It had started to snow again, and it was hard to see any detail, but they seemed to be heading towards the Cultural Centre. He held his breath.
Yes, they were definitely coming in his direction. He suppressed the urge to dive for cover, and kept watching them.
‘What’s so interesting out there?’ Jock growled, getting down from the chair.
‘Just stay where you are,’ said Christopher, turning back into the room slightly. Almost at once he had the insane urge to look at the car park again. This time the running figures were much closer. Too close for comfort, in fact. He now saw one of them was limping quite badly, perhaps because of a fall on the ice. More haste, less speed, thought Christopher, nodding to himself.
Suddenly one of them came almost right up to the window and stared in. He was wearing a balaclava but Christopher just caught a glimpse of dark, angry eyes in a pale face, before Jock caught him by the arm and pulled him down to the floor.
‘Don’t look!’ muttered Jock in his ear, and then something slammed against the window and they both jumped.