Today, I’m delighted to be able to show you the cover for my latest novel, The Abattoir of Dreams. This harrowing thriller will be published by Bloodhound Books on 28th February.
The past is never far away.
Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his
father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael
was sent to Woodside Children’s Home.
Now an adult, Michael wakes up from a coma in
hospital suffering from amnesia and paralysis.
Confused and terrified, he is charged with the
fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also
learns he attempted to end his own life.
Detective Inspector John Carver is determined
that Michael is sent to prison.
With no way of defending himself, Michael is
left in his hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand.
But then strange things begin to happen and his
childhood comes back to haunt him.
Can Michael ever escape the past?
Will he ever discover the truth about Becky’s
And why is DI Carver so eager to make him suffer?
The Abattoir of Dreams is a bitter sweet story of murder, innocence and abuse.
I’d also like to share the first chapter of the book with you. I hope you enjoy it.
Nurse Emily Dixon fussed with my bedsheet and fixed me with a smile that seemed more professional than friendly. ‘There’s someone here to see you, Michael.’
‘Detective Inspector Carver. Thames Valley police.’
‘Has he found my memory?’
‘I think it’s more serious than that.’ She left, replaced by a tall, slim man in a charcoal suit.
‘Hello, Mr. Tate.’
There was something about his lopsided grin I didn’t like. Half-sincere, perhaps? ‘Hello.’
‘I see they’ve given you your own room.’
Wasn’t I the lucky one.
He sat on a chair next to the bed. ‘Do you know why I’m here?’
‘No.’ I wiped sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand. There was a fan on top of a five-drawer unit by the window; its blades didn’t so much as spin but lurch, like a buckled wheel. Next to the unit, a wheelchair, my only mode of transport in this brave, new, paralysed world. If anyone ever bothered to hoist me out of the bed, that was.
‘Look at me when I’m speaking to you, Michael. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?’
This sudden change of tone sent a shiver through my body. I didn’t have a clue whether my mother had taught me anything; I didn’t even remember her. I looked into his pale blue eyes; they seemed to glisten in the afternoon sunlight pouring through a small window behind the bed.
‘That’s better,’ he crooned. ‘You can tell a lot from a man’s eyes.’
The room didn’t seem to have enough air. I wanted to run to the window. Dive through it. Put an end to this eternal nightmare of paralysis and amnesia.
‘You look better than the last time I last saw you.’
‘I’ve been to see you three times, Michael. First time, you had tubes sticking out of everywhere. Second time, you were still in a coma. Not very chatty.’ He grinned, seemingly pleased with his own lame joke. ‘But, today, hey presto, the wanderer returns.’
‘Why are you here?’
He ignored my question. ‘Funny things, comas; neither dead nor alive. Strange sort of limbo.’
‘If you say so.’
‘Have you remembered anything yet? Doctor claims you’re suffering from amnesia.’
‘I don’t remember a thing.’ The truth.
‘If I was to be cynical, Michael, I might think your memory loss was a tad convenient. But, just for the record, let me help you with the events of Monday, June twenty-first; the night you walked to the top of Evenlode flats and tried your hand at flying. A witness said you came home from work at nine-fifteen. She remembered you because you always dragged your work bag up the metal handrail and pissed her off.’
‘The George Hotel in Feelham. You were a washer-upper. A dish-jockey. But, that’s not relevant, Michael. Suffice to say, you left work at eight forty-five, and clunked your way upstairs at nine-fifteen. Our witness says she heard a lot of banging and thudding coming from your flat, but she just assumed you were having sex. Then, at ten thirty-five, according to two eye witnesses, you jumped off the roof. So that just leaves the missing hour and twenty minutes when you stabbed your girlfriend to death with a kitchen knife.’
My heart stopped. ‘What?’
‘Murdered her in cold blood, Michael.’ He spoke the way some adults speak to old people as if they’re all deaf and daft. ‘Stabbed her twenty-one times.’
‘Becky Marie Coombs. Name ring a bell?’
It didn’t. How was I supposed to react to the news I’d killed my girlfriend if I didn’t even remember her? It felt as if Carver was describing a nightmare which had happened to someone else.
‘Did you let yourself into your flat, or did Becky let you in?’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Course. I forgot. All Dumbo’s memories fell out of his ears when he hit that builder’s van. Let me help you. Tell you what I think happened. You got home after working your bollocks off in that hotel kitchen. Only thing you’re bothered about is a drink to unwind and hitting the sack, right?’
‘If you say so.’
‘You like a drink, don’t you, Michael?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You do. Becky’s mum called you a piss-head, but that’s neither here nor there. So, you let yourself in, and then you realise your worst nightmare. Becky’s in bed with another man.’
‘I’ll tell you this for nothing, son: I would have been bloody furious as well. How dare some dirty dog get into your bed and soil your sheets?’
The room was stifling. Suffocating. There was an oxygen cylinder by the door. I almost called out for a nurse to come and connect me up to it.
‘Let’s face it, Michael, you’ve not got much going for you, have you? A shitty job in a shitty hotel. Crap pay. Crap hours. A drink problem. A face like a smacked arse. If life was a pair of underpants, you’d be a skid mark, right?’
‘Could you open the window?’
He didn’t seem to hear me. ‘Do you know how I do my job, Michael?’
‘I imagine myself in the same situation as the criminal. Ask myself what would I do if I came home knackered from work and found my bird in bed with a stranger. A fucking freeloader. And here’s the truth: I’d want blood, too. Not the man’s. No way. Uh-uh. That slimy twat has no contract with me. No promises to stay faithful. No declarations of undying love. Just a dirty little opportunist. But, Mrs. Carver, bless her, well, she swore to be mine and mine alone. Not get in the sack with someone else as soon as my back’s turned. Open her legs to the first dirty bastard who paid her a compliment. Are we thinking the same thoughts, Michael?’
‘Of course we are. It’s a universal truth no man is willing to share. What’s his is his. So I’d throw out the imposter. Naked if need be. Then I’d do the same as you Michael. I’d stab the bitch to death in a jealous rage.’
I focussed my attention on the knackered fan. It looked the way I felt.
‘Twenty-one stab wounds, Michael. And you expect me to believe you don’t remember a single one of them?’
‘What about the one in her neck?’
‘I need water.’
‘Or the ten in her left breast?’
‘Please. I don’t—’
‘Was the breast significant, Michael? Maybe the bloke was sucking her tit when you caught them at it?’
My chest felt as if a boa constrictor had coiled itself around me and was squeezing for all it was worth.
‘You stabbed her in the eye, Michael. Was that symbolic?’
I shook my head. What did he want me to say? Oh, yes, come to think of it, I did mutilate her. It must have slipped my mind.
Carver took a picture from the breast pocket of his suit. He handed it to me. ‘This is what you did, Michael. Take a good look. See if it jogs your memory.’
I gawped at the mutilated corpse of a naked young girl lying on a blood-soaked double bed. Her hands were bound to the brass headboard with a scarf. Blood covered her upper body, and her long, blonde hair was streaked a murderous shade of red. One eye stared at the ceiling, as if searching for salvation, the other, a bloody unrecognisable pulp, bore no relation to its sightless counterpart.
‘Becky Marie Coombs. Do you recognise her, Michael?’
Of course I fucking well don’t. How many more times? ‘No.’
‘Her mother says you were with Becky for three years.’
Three years, three minutes, it made no difference to my blank memory.
‘That’s a long time, Michael. You must have been in love.’
I agreed, tired of telling him I didn’t remember.
‘Must have been a hell of a shock?’
‘Seeing her in bed with another man. At her, like a stray dog on heat. Fucking her. Touching her. Handling stolen goods.’
I put the picture on the bed. Face down. A nasty, queasy feeling in my stomach.
‘Come on, Michael. You can tell me. I get it.’
‘I can’t tell you anything.’
He picked up the picture and looked at it. ‘Pretty girl, I should imagine. Long, blonde hair. I can’t quite make out the colour of her eyes.’
‘Can you ask the nurse to get me a glass of water?’
Carver continued to study the picture. ‘They look grey to me. Well, the one you didn’t butcher does.’
Why couldn’t I be in a shared ward?
‘Nice lips, too,’ Carver went on. ‘What you might call cock-sucking lips.’
Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Leave me alone.
‘Was she giving him a blow job, Michael?’
‘Or on top of him? In the saddle, so-to-speak?’
Carver put the picture back in his jacket pocket. ‘We will find out, Michael. It’ll be much better for you if you cooperate. You understand that, don’t you?’
‘How can I when I don’t remember?’
‘I don’t believe you. You’re concocting this memory loss nonsense. The way some murderers claim they’ve heard voices telling them to kill. What a load of bollocks that is. How come no one else can hear these voices?’
‘How should I know?’ My head felt as if it was filled with thick fog.
‘You’ll get life for this, Michael. That’s a fact. If you had one ounce of decency, you’d say what happened. Not for my sake. I’ll still go home to Angie tonight, eat a nice steak dinner and watch TV. Get in my comfy bed and sleep peacefully. Do it for Becky’s mother. She’s the one suffering. You’ve robbed her of the chance to watch her only daughter get married and have children. All because you couldn’t control your emotions. How does that make you feel?’
Like he was talking to someone else. Someone I was vaguely related to.
‘I think you’re a lying little shit.’
Something collapsed in my stomach. Well, the part of it I could still feel. I was paralysed from the waist down. ‘I’m not.’
‘Let me tell you this for free, Mr. Tate: you can’t kid a kidder.’
‘I’m not trying to kid any—’
‘They say you’ll have to piss into a bag for the rest of your life. Do you think that’s fair recompense for what you’ve done?’
‘Damned right it isn’t. So tell me, can you still feel your balls?’
I shook my head.
He pulled aside the thin sheet covering my legs and sucked in a breath through clenched teeth. ‘Looks like your football days are over.’
I called for the nurse.
Carver put a finger to his lips. ‘No one can hear you, Michael. Between me and you, the hospital staff can’t wait to get rid of you. They have a duty of care, but no one likes a murderer.’
‘Look, if I knew anything, I’d tell you.’
‘The detective inspector in me thinks different. The detective inspector in me reckons you’re putting on an act.’
I watched in horror as his hand slid up my leg and rested on my thigh. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
He pursed his lips. ‘Me? Questioning a Prime Suspect about the murder of his girlfriend.’
I looked at his hand. ‘I mean—’
I pushed myself back against my pillows, trying to move away from him.
Carver moved up to my crotch. In an instant, he grabbed my balls. Like a snake striking. ‘How does that feel?’
I couldn’t feel a thing. Thank heavens for small mercies. ‘Get off me!’
‘You could say I’ve got you by the balls. How would you like me to give them a little squeeze?’
‘Or how about I cut them out of the sac and take them home for my dog’s dinner?’
‘You can’t talk to me like this.’
‘I can talk to you any way I please, Michael. Becky’s mother said there was always something she didn’t like about you. Something sinister. Like you were hiding something. What were you hiding, Michael?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Did you fantasise about killing Becky?’
‘Did you plan it?’
‘I thought you said I found her in bed with a—’
‘Just a theory, Mikey. Here’s another: you’re a sexual sadist.’
Why was he calling me Mikey? ‘A what?’
‘Someone who likes torturing women. Gets off on pain. Perhaps you tied her to the bed and tortured her with that knife. Put her through hell until you finally lost it in a frenzy of lust. Is that right, Mikey?’
My breath froze as I watched his hand manipulate my private parts.
‘Are we in the right ballpark, Michael?’
‘How old was Becky?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Let me help you. Twenty-one. In the prime of her life. No age to die, right? Twenty-one stab wounds. Do you see a link, Michael? One for every year that poor girl was alive. So much hate. So much rage. You fucking sadistic, little twat.’
I looked away.
Carver retracted his hand and smelled his fingers. ‘You need a bed-bath, son. You stink.’
I relaxed my grip on the edge of the mattress. I tried to take slow, even breaths. My heart thudded in my chest.
He took a knife out of his jacket pocket. A penknife with a foldaway blade. ‘You know what this is, Mikey?’
I watched him unfold the blade and run it across the tip of his index finger, drawing blood. ‘Good and sharp. Just as you like it. Cutting is good for the soul, isn’t it, Mikey?’
I wanted to tell him my name was Michael, not Mikey. Why was he calling me that? But, my tongue felt as useless as my legs.
‘I reckon it might be a good idea to cut your balls out. I reckon they’d taste sweet on toast.’
I willed my useless legs to kick out. Protect me from this madman. Unfortunately, their kicking days were well and truly over.
‘Or perhaps you’d prefer I gut you like a fish?’
‘The nurses can’t help you, Mikey. They’re busy looking after sick people.’
I called out again. The word echoed around my head.
‘You’re never going fishing with that tackle again.’ He moved the blade close to my penis.
‘I ought to castrate you, you filthy little pervert.’
At least I wouldn’t feel it. I could just bleed out and be done with it. Endless black death.
Carver shook his head and withdrew the knife. He folded the blade and put it back in his pocket. ‘You deserve to suffer. The consultant tells me you’ve fractured two vertebrae. I dread to think what will happen to you in prison, with all those horny bastards waiting to get their grubby mitts on you.’
‘Why are you doing this?’
Carver sighed. ‘I’m just calling it like it is, Michael. I don’t want you to be under any illusion. It’s a blessing you can’t feel your arse.’
I looked away from his smug chops and stared at the peeling yellow paint on the wall.
‘If you tell me the truth, tell me what really happened the night you murdered Becky Coombs, I might put in a good word for you. See if the screws can’t keep an eye out for you.’
‘If I killed this girl, I deserve all I get.’
‘There’s no “if” about it, son. You killed her. That’s what we call a stone cold fact. Stabbed her with a kitchen knife. Cut and dried case, you might say.’
‘I don’t know what you want me to say.’
‘I want you to tell the truth.’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Do you seriously expect a court to believe you have no recollection of your despicable crime?’
‘Next time I visit you, we can go for a little walk in the garden. It’s lovely this time of year. Lots of pretty flowers. Do you like flowers?’ He didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Becky’s mother puts fresh flowers on her daughter’s grave every Sunday, without fail. Said she goes there every day to talk to her. Terrible thing for a mother to have to do.’
‘You know jack shit, Tate. Have you ever had to put flowers on your daughter’s grave?’
‘I haven’t got a daughter… have I?’
Carver grinned and touched the tip of his nose with his index finger. ‘That’s for me to know.’
I tried to shut my mind off. Tell myself he was just messing with my head. But, now he’d planted the seed, I was powerless to stop it growing.
‘So, what do you say, Michael? Want to go for a walk next time?’
‘I can’t walk.’
Carver nodded towards the wheelchair sitting idle against the wall. ‘Don’t be so pedantic. I meant in the wheelchair. I don’t mind pushing. My treat.’
‘I don’t want to go outside.’
‘Fresh air might do you good. Help to jog that memory of yours.’
‘I doubt it.’
‘Never try, never know. That’s what my mother used to say to my old man. Lazy bastard never listened. Conducted most of his life from an armchair unless he went to the boozer to warm up his fists. I’d call that a waste of life, wouldn’t you?’
‘If you say so.’
‘We’ll go for a nice walk amongst the rhododendrons.’
‘Michael William Tate, I’m placing you under arrest on suspicion of the murder of Becky Marie Coombs. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand the charge?’
‘Good. I’ll be back to see you soon.’
I watched him leave the room, my upper body alive with goosebumps.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. You can read some ARC reviews of the book here on Goodreads.
All the best,