Firstly I wish to thank Sarah Hardy of Book on the Bright Side Publicity and Promotion for inviting on this Blog blitz
It feels like history is repeating itself when out-of-favour detective Will Harlan gets summoned to a crime scene in the village of Brackenbrae after a young girl is found hanging in the woods.
Five years ago Harlan headed up the investigation of an identical murder in the same woods; a mishandled investigation that effectively destroyed his credibility as a detective. The new case immediately takes a bizarre twist when the body is identified as the same girl found hanging in the woods five years ago.
The following day a local man commits suicide and the police find more dead girls hidden in his basement. The case seems open and closed.
Until the killing spree begins.
Harlan finds himself drawn into a dark world where murder is a form of self-expression and human life treated as one more commodity to be used and discarded.
The only clue that links everything is a large oil painting of ‘Sagittarius A’ – a massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy orbited by thirteen stars daubed in blood with the words –
I AM DELIGHTED TO PRESENT YOU WITH A GUEST POST FROM ALLAN WATSON, WHERE HE EXPLAINS HIS CONNECTION WITH DAPHNE BROON, A DEAD HAMSTER AND APPEARING AT BLOODY SCOTLAND. A SUPER FUNNY PIECE!
Bloody Scotland, Daphne Broon and Dead Hamsters
I’m lounging on the couch, nose buried deep in a book, reaching for yet another chocolate Hobnob when the phone rings. I snatch at it scattering crumbs. ‘Hello. Allan Watson. Writer in Residence at your service.’ I’m the habit of using this snappy salutation in case a big publisher ever calls. However, even I know big publishers don’t normally mask their voice by holding a cloth over the mouthpiece.
‘Shut up and listen, you slag,’ rasps the voice. ‘We’ve got the dirt on you and no mistake.’
‘Who is this? And what dirt?’
‘Never mind who this is. We know all about you and Daphne Broon.’
‘Daphne Broon? You mean the frumpy and unattractive cartoon character from the Sunday Post?’
‘That’s the one. We have incriminating photographic evidence of your seedy hotel room romp. You’ve been caught in a Honeytrap. If you don’t want your wife and family to see these pictures, you’ll do exactly what we say.’
I’m totally confused at this point. ‘But Daphne Broon isn’t real.’
The voice laughs down the phone. ‘The camera never lies. Check your email.’
I grab my iPad and find an email from an unknown sender. There’s a very graphic illustration of me and Daphne naked and romping on a bed. The caricature of me is actually sort of flattering. I say to my tormentor, ‘That’s just a stupid drawing. I’m hanging up.’
‘No, wait!’ he splutters. ‘There’s more.’
I sigh and wonder what other crazy stuff this lunatic has to accuse me of. Carnal capers with Keyhole Kate? Dominatrix sessions with Pansy Potter the Strongman’s Daughter? However, his next words send a chill down my spine.
‘We know about the hamster.’
My own voice is now a dry croak. ‘You can’t possibly know about…’
The voice sneers in a cruel fashion. ‘Nibbles? Your daughter’s beloved hamster that you electrocuted?’
‘But that was an accident,’ I wail.
‘So you say, but who’ll believe you?’
Outside my window the off-key chimes of an ice-cream van warble through the air allowing me to flashback into the past.
Fifteen years ago my daughter did indeed own a hamster called Nibbles. Over the course of a weekend two events occurred that at the time I’d no idea were connected. The first was Nibbles escaping and going AWOL. The second was me attempting to make toast and having trouble with the ignition switch on the gas cooker. Took me at least half a dozen tries before it finally clicked and fired up the grill.
After a full week Nibbles still hadn’t resurfaced and there was a distinct odour of decaying rodent in the kitchen. The smell was strongest beside the cooker and I thought Nibbles might have expired
beneath the floorboards. I hauled the cooker out, removed the boards where the pipes came up and stuck my head under. No Nibbles. And not even a whiff of dead hamster. Getting to my feet my nose came under assault yet again and I realised Nibbles was actually inside the cooker. Half an hour later I’d dismantled the appliance and there, bloated and rank on a nexus of wiring directly above the ignition switch was the dead hamster. Only then did I remember hitting that ignition switch time after time, unaware I was zapping Nibbles with 240v with each deadly jab of my finger. Yes, I finally got my breakfast, but at the expense of a beloved family pet whose own status was now, erm… toast.
The ice cream van backfires and drives off and I’m once again back in the present. I thought I would take the tale of Nibble’s tragic demise to my own grave, but somehow this stranger on the phone had unearthed my dark secret. I could be ruined if this went public.
‘What do you want?’ I ask the mysterious caller. ‘Money? I’m a poor writer. Ever since I lost my paper round things have been a bit tight financially.’
The caller laughs again. ‘What I want you to do is turn up at the Albert Halls in Stirling on Saturday 22nd at 14:45 p.m.’
‘You’ve been chosen as a Crime in the Spotlight new writer for Bloody Scotland and will have three minutes to sell your book Heart Swarm and do a short reading before Chris Brookmyer takes the stage. After the event you get to sign books while sitting on a very small chair. Got that?’
‘Um… yeah, fine. I’d love to. Thanks.’
The caller sounds very angry. ‘What do you mean you’d love to? Why didn’t you say so in the first place and not have me waste my precious time threatening you?’
‘But… but…’ I try to explain, but the caller has already hung up. I sit there a while longer feeling shell-shocked. Me appearing at the Albert Halls as Brookmyre’s warm-up act? Things were definitely looking up. I decide to have another cup of tea and chocolate Hobnob. I call out, ‘Daphne! Get in here.’
Daphne Broon wearing only a silk negligee appears in the kitchen doorway holding a tray with tea and biscuits. She strikes an alluring pose, the bare flesh of her legs like pale suet puddings in the soft late-afternoon light.
‘So what’s all this about you being a Honeytrap?’ I say.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…
Twitter – @allanwatson12