For those of you who have been reading and liking my first book, Where There’s A Will: Inspector Stone Mysteries #1, here is what I hope you’ll consider a treat, a sneak preview of An Eye For An Eye: Inspector Stone Mysteries #2, which I currently have scheduled for a September release.
There’s no cover yet, unfortunately, it’ll be a few months before I get one, and no blurb because I haven’t had the time to come up with one, but here is the opening couple of chapters. This is Only the first draft, so no editing has been done, but I hope you won’t hold that against me or the story.
An Eye For An Eye
Inspector Stone Mysteries #2
The sawn-off shotgun in the hands of the masked man boomed twice in quick succession, doing fatal damage to the two women in front of him. They were brave, he couldn’t deny that, but he could see the fear they were trying to hide, fear which remained even as the life faded from their eyes. At a distance of no more than three feet, the shots were powerful enough to lift both women, neither of whom were all that big, off their feet and throw them backwards, blood staining their dresses.
Opening the breach, He dumped out the spent shells and reloaded with brisk efficiency, his eyes on the women as he watched them for any sign they were still alive. There was nothing. Satisfied, he bent and picked up his rucksack, into which he shoved his shotgun, the money the younger of the two women had handed over in the hopes of appeasing him and making him leave, several bottles of whiskey – his preferred drink – and all the cigarettes he could fit in.
Once the bag was full, he shouldered it and turned away from the two bodies on the floor. Without so much as a backward glance, he left the shop. In a couple of strides, he was at his car, which he had left open; he threw his bag onto the back seat, not caring if the bottles of whiskey broke, and slid behind the wheel.
The engine started on the first turn of the key, and he quickly pulled away from the kerb, tugging his balaclava off as he headed down the road. Balaclavas were an occupational hazard for him, since he didn’t want to go to jail if it could be avoided, but he had never enjoyed wearing them; his discomfort was made worse by the heat of the day, it was over fifteen degrees, far too warm for the garment, and he exhaled in relief when he felt fresh air stroke his face.
Detective Inspector Nathan Stone got out of his car and looked around, his green eyes taking in everything. It didn’t surprise him to see that a small crowd, almost certainly made up of the residents of Mead Street, had gathered. He noted the anger on the faces of several people, Asians all, and hoped the attack he was there to investigate wasn’t racially motivated; if it was, he didn’t doubt there would be a lot of trouble, especially if he couldn’t solve it quickly. The non-Asians in the small group didn’t appear angry, but there was distress, sadness, and a mix of other emotions on their faces.
A police patrol car was parked outside Bhaskar’s convenience store on the corner of Mead Street and Vine Close, the officers who were supposed to be with it, nowhere to be seen. A second patrol car was down the road, filling the gap between a green Kia Picanto and a red Ford Ka; the officers from that patrol car were keeping the crowd back from the shop, an easy task, since none of those gathered showed any inclined to push forward. Everyone seemed content to stand and watch events, despite there not being much for them to see.
An ambulance occupied the middle of the road, preventing cars passing, it siren silent, though the blue lights atop it flashed across the faces of the crowd every few seconds, highlighting the anger and the grief.
Stone saw the paramedics leaning against their vehicle, doing nothing, and concluded that there was nothing that could be done for the victims in the shop, which meant he was almost certainly there to investigate a murder, rather than an assault.
“Jones is here.”
The comment drew Stone’s attention away from his surroundings and across the car to his partner, Detective Sergeant Steven Burke, whose eyes, a cloudy grey, were looking past him and the ambulance to the other side of the road. Following his sergeant’s gaze, Stone spotted the silver Mercedes that belonged to Doctor Daffyd Jones – it was easily recognised by the personalised number place ‘DRDJ94’ – the senior medical examiner for Branton Police, and the man who attended virtually every murder scene, thankfully a small number, in the town.
“Let’s hope he’s been here long enough to have the preliminaries out the way,” he remarked. While he had great respect for the doctor, Stone had little patience for the almost compulsive rituals he went through before getting down to work.
Walking around the car, Stone acknowledged the brief greetings of the two uniformed constables, and then crossed the pavement to enter the shop, his partner just a step behind him. He got the first surprise of his new case once he was through the door, and saw who had responded to the initial nine-nine-nine call.
“What are you doing here, Ian?” he asked, his voice revealing how unexpected it was to find his long-time friend, Sergeant Ian Oakley, there. “I didn’t think you were allowed out of the station anymore, something to do with too many crashes while on patrol, wasn’t it,” he said, a smile playing about his lips.
Oakley shot his friend a less than amused look and pushed away from the shelf he was leaning against, the limp he had been left with by his last crash obvious even in the few steps he took to approach the inspector. “I’m here because the chief inspector thought the situation might need someone with tact to handle the uniform side of things; since I was already on patrol, shepherding WPC Beck – he indicated the very nervous female constable who, to Stone’s mind, seemed far too young to be in uniform – on her first time out, he figured I was the best person for the job.”
“Judging by the looks on the faces of the people out there, tact is definitely going to be needed; fortunately, I have Steven for that,” Stone remarked.
Oakley gave that comment the smile it deserved; he knew Stone was perfectly capable of being tactful, polite, and considerate, when the occasion called for it.
After trading a few more comments with his friend, while his partner looked on without joining in, Stone made his way to the back of the shop, where he could see Dr Jones. As he got closer, he saw the two women on the floor of the shop, their limbs entangled, their chests sporting matching red stains. In appearance, both women were similar, to the extent that Stone wondered if they were sisters – both were short, barely over five feet, though it was hard to be sure of their heights given their position, clearly of Asian descent, and wearing long dresses that covered them from their throats to their ankles, with cardigans over the top, covering their arms. The only immediately obvious difference between the two women was in their faces; the eyes of the woman on the left were closed, and her expression suggested either peace or resignation; while the eyes of the second woman were open, and she wore a look of fear.
“It’s definitely murder then,” Stone said, taking in the scene at the doctor’s feet. In addition to the two murdered women, there was a mess of chocolate bars, clearly from a promotional display that had been knocked over, on the floor around them and behind the counter, on which the till sat, glass glittered in the pool of dark rum from the broken bottle.
“That’s what I like about you, Nathan, you’re not afraid to state the obvious,” Daffyd Jones remarked, looking up over his shoulder at Stone. He turned his attention to Burke then. “I hope you’re paying attention, Steven; if you ever want to make it to inspector, you need to be able to look at a crime scene like this and know instantly what it is you’re dealing with.” Though there was no hint of it in the doctor’s appearance, both detectives had enough experience of him to know when he was being sarcastic – it wasn’t difficult, when he wasn’t talking about purely medical matters, Daffyd was nearly always being sarcastic.
“Working with Nathan is constant learning experience,” Burke said with a perfectly straight face.
A trace of a smile played about Daffyd’s lips as he straightened, not that that made much of a difference since he still needed to look up to match eyes with the two detectives. At five foot five he was short, though the lack of inches in his height was made up for by those around his waist; no-one paid any mind to his physique, however, once they became acquainted with his intellect.
“I take it we’re looking at a shotgun here, Daff,” Stone said, deciding that it was time to become serious, and to put aside the humour and the sarcasm that had a habit of escaping him.
Daffyd nodded. “I’d guess it was a sawn-off, fired at a distance of about three feet, to judge by the spread of the pellets. They were thrown backwards into the wall, no surprise there, being shot at such close range, and I’m sure I’ll find bruising as a result of that, but they won’t have felt anything. Both women died instantly. It’s not much, but it might be a comfort to their family,” he said in a compassionate voice. “I’ll be able to tell you more after the PM, but right now everything looks pretty straightforward from my side of things.” He looked sadly down on the two women at his feet. “Who’d want to do a thing like this?” he asked, more of himself than of either Stone or Burke.
“Have you got anything else to do here?” Stone asked of Daffyd, knowing that there wasn’t much he could do until the doctor was finished.
“No, I’ve done all I can,” Daffyd said, knowing that he had done nothing, except confirm that the two women were dead and not happy about it. “Are forensics on their way?” he asked.
That was a question to which Stone didn’t know the answer, and he turned to Sergeant Oakley, in the hope that he knew.
“They’re about ten minutes out,” Oakley said in response to the questioning look from the inspector. “Apparently, a bus has broken down and is blocking Castle Bridge, they’ve had to divert. I imagine it’s chaos around there.”
“I imagine you’re right,” Stone agreed. “Let’s hope they don’t run into any more delays. Do we know who the ladies are?” he asked of Oakley.
“I’m afraid not, not for certain anyway,” Oakley answered. “We believe they are the wife and mother of the owner, a Mr Vikram Bhaskar, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.” Anticipating the next question, he said, “We don’t know where Mr Bhaskar is; according to his neighbour – he gestured in the direction of Vine Street, to make it clear which neighbour he was referring to – he left in the shop’s van a little over an hour ago.”
“Who reported this?” Stone asked.
“A Mrs Dormer, she was walking past the shop on the way home when she heard the gunshots. She made the call from her mobile as she hurried home; she’s outside in the crowd now, at least she was.”
“Did she see anything?”
Oakley shrugged. “She didn’t say anything, but I only spoke to her briefly.”
Stone regarded him steadily for a moment before saying anything more. “Would you start the house-to-house enquiries?” he asked of his friend. “I have a feeling we won’t learn much, even if there are a few nosey neighbours out there, but anything is better than nothing.”
“Sure thing,” Oakley said agreeably, he knew as well as Stone did how important the most minor of details could be. “Come on, Elsa.” He gestured with a nod of his head for the young female constable to follow him. “Anything else you want me to do?”
Stone answered that with a shake of his head. “I trust you to get on and do anything that needs doing,” he said, “without me needing to tell you.” Though the sergeant had never passed the detective’s exam, he had more than enough experience to know what might need to be done to help an investigation.
If you have any thoughts on this preview, don’t hesitate to let me know them in the comments.