Today, I’m delighted to share the new cover for The Eyes of the Accused. It will be re-launched by Bloodhound Books on 6th June. Below is the first chapter of the book. I hope you enjoy it.
Fresh from the horrors of their last case, private investigators Ben and Maddie are plunged into a disturbing world of terror as they search for missing pregnant girl, Hannah Heath.
Drawn to Frank Crowley, a suspect in Hannah’s disappearance, Maddie is about to come face to face with true evil. As she gets close to Crowley, Maddie will learn all is not what it seems.
Crowley is just a small part of something much larger. Something so terrible and deranged, it defies reason.
When Maddie disappears, Ben is left in a desperate race against time to find her and uncover the truth.
But can Ben and Maddie both survive this time?
Hannah Heath knew she was dying. Her head felt strangely detached from her body, as if it might float away at any moment like a helium balloon. A strip light blinked above her. Perhaps a mothership come to take her home. But where was home? Over the hills and far away, for all she knew. Her swollen bladder threatened to burst.
Outside the echoing dome of her skull, she heard a voice. ‘You asked to go to the toilet. Don’t you dare wet yourself. Get up!’
So tired now. Tired enough to die. She closed her eyes and waited for the angels to take her to heaven. The angels seemed otherwise engaged. Perhaps this terrible place was beyond their jurisdiction.
‘Stand up. I’m not dragging you all the way to the toilet.’
The words sounded as if they’d been fired from a canon. She wanted to say she couldn’t move. Her body was too tired. Exhausted. But the words refused to form on her lips. Hands on hers. Pulling her upright. A grunting noise, followed by several short sharp pants. ‘Come… on… get… up…’
Hannah opened one eye. Bright light forced it shut again. She tried to speak. Ask to be left alone, but the words came out all wrong. ‘Schmalone.’
Something pressed into her right breast. It bore down into her chest. She reached out, and her hand brushed against something coarse. Hair? She tried to grip it, but her fingers felt swollen and useless.
‘Stand up, you stupid girl.’
This time the words sounded as if the speaker was actually inside her head. More pressure on her chest, and then something digging into her ribs. Something sharp. Claws? Perhaps a giant bird come to take her away. Feed her to a nest of baby giant birds. Was there even such a thing as baby giant birds? This last thought made her giggle.
Sitting on a toilet. Naked from the waist down. No idea who she was or how she’d got there. Her stomach clenched and flipped over as she tried to remember her name. Give an identity to this strangely detached being that was part human, part alien.
‘Hurry up. We haven’t got all night.’
Hannah recognised the voice. But where from? Its raspy tone grated against the edge of her mind. Her bladder suddenly let go. Some of the urine splashed against her bare skin. Warm and instantly cold. Maybe her waters had broken.
‘Am I pregnant?’ The last word came out as prennant.
‘Are you finished?’
As finished as a corpse. ‘No.’ An instinctive answer. Somewhere deep in her mind she knew it best not to admit to anything.
On the back seat of a car. Head thumping like a bass drum. The roar of a jet engine. A face pressed to the window. Her Grandma Jane. But she was dead; Hannah remembered that much. Had a stroke and died. Or was it a heart attack? Grandma Jane smiled at her. Not a joyous smile, more of a chin-up smile. A grin and bear it smile. A smile stretched over a thousand years. Wide as the universe, sincere as the stars.
The car stopped. Hannah tried to get up and see where she was. It might be important one day. But her arms refused to take orders from her brain. A door slammed. The sound ripped through her head. And then the car moved again. Time continued in unrelated chunks.
Floating. Looking down at her dead body. She looked so peaceful. The ghost of a smile on her lips. Dark hair fanned out around her. She appeared to be floating in water. She wore a plain light-brown uniform. The lower part of the uniform was stained with dark patches. Blood? Had she had a miscarriage and died? But how could she have a miscarriage if she wasn’t even pregnant?
Grandma Jane appeared beside her. ‘You must save the child.’
Hannah was about to tell Grandma Jane that she wasn’t pregnant when a thought, as sure and true as a marksman’s bullet, struck home. You’re four months gone.
Hannah could now see the swell of her stomach. Another thought, this time laced with syrup. Robert needs you.
Robert. She tasted the name on her lips. Robert. Now she remembered. The scent of Boss aftershave, strong and… sensual? Lips pressing against hers. Hands touching her in secret places. But who was he? The memory seemed coated with grease.
Hannah was going to puke. On a boat, lurching from side to side, like a drunk trying to stagger home. All the junk food she’d ever eaten sloshing about inside her. Burgers and greasy onions. Kebabs laced with chilli sauce. Chocolate ice cream and Branston Pickle. This last thought almost triggered a memory. A craving?
Back in the car. On familiar ground you might say. Sick rising in her throat. A chunk of something. Pickle? The car hit a bump and threw Hannah forward. A hot clammy hand between her thighs. The puke massager. She somehow managed to prop herself up on one elbow and shout a warning. ‘Sick.’
Shadows of eyes in the rear-view mirror. The Devil’s eyes. ‘Lay back down. We won’t be long.’
A gurgling noise in the back of her throat. And a cold stark certainty that she was going to throw up and drown in her own vomit.
Cool air brushing against her face. No more awful rhythmic motion. The nearest thing to heaven in this never ending hell. Hands pulling her out of the car and onto something soft. Grass?
‘Get it done.’
Hannah tried to locate the source of that terrible emotionless voice, but the need to vomit overwhelmed her. Hands pulled at her clothes and rolled her onto her front. Now on all fours. Retching. Stomach ripped to shreds.
A lucid moment. The grass stained with a small patch of yellow vomit. She now knew who she was. Hannah Marie Heath. Sixteen weeks pregnant. Her boyfriend was called Robert. She could see his clean white smile on the surface of a large grey stone. She wanted to crawl towards that stone and lose herself in the reassuring beauty of that smile.
A badge pinned to her brown tunic. Hannah Heath. Care Assistant. She tore the badge off and put it behind the large grey stone that had once held the promise of Robert’s smile. Out of sight. Somewhere it might be seen by someone walking a dog. Someone that could give it to…
Back in the car. Vomit drying on her lips. No memory of throwing up. No recollection of being dragged into the car. Just that awful instinctive certainty that she was going to die.
A basement. Lying on an airbed staring at the ceiling. Dressed in a red baggy sweatshirt and brown jogging bottoms. Her bare feet filthy, as if she’d trekked through mud without shoes. Watching a spider crawl around a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, its legs busy weaving thread like miniature knitting needles. The spider appeared to have a face. A smiling face.
A lucid thought: She was supposed to be getting married in the summer. Was it still summer? It certainly felt as if it was. The basement was stifling, and the two-bar electric fire near the far wall wasn’t even plugged in.
The spider had woven a perfect wedding veil. It hung across the lightbulb, illuminated and grandly displayed. The spider wasn’t there anymore, just his handiwork. So beautiful and so intricate that it made Hannah want to cry. She tried to swallow. No spit in her mouth. She willed her useless mind to work. Do all the things a mind was supposed to do.
The spider’s wedding veil hanging in ghostly tattered strands. A fly trapped in its silk shackles, seemingly intent on beating itself to death against the ceiling in an effort to escape. The concrete floor beneath the airbed was hard and uncompromising, digging into her back and making it difficult to breathe. The stale air reeked of disinfectant and shit. And something else that she couldn’t quite place. Death, perhaps? The fly stopped moving and hung above her like a failed trapeze artist. Hannah wasn’t sure if it was dead, or just resting before having another stab at breaking free.
She scraped her tongue across her parched lips. ‘What’s happened to me?’
The basement threw the words around its empty walls and right back at her. Heaviness pressed down on her bladder. She reached down and felt a slight swell beneath the sweat shirt. She ran her hand slowly across the bump. Was she really pregnant?
Does it matter. You’re going to die.
She arched her back to relieve the tension at the base of her spine. She tried to stitch thoughts together, but the thread kept snapping. What she needed right now was some of that spider’s web to hold it all in place. The lightbulb started to swing, which was strange, considering there was no wind in the stinking basement. She closed her eyes and was treated to a vision of a dead body swaying back and forth on the end of a hangman’s rope. The slow, rhythmic creak of the gallows screeched across her mind. And then the sudden realisation that the distorted face bulging from the noose belonged to her.
Falling. Someone must have cut the rope. Deeper and deeper into a black hole. No sounds in this empty void. No sensory perception. Just a long rolling darkness that was as comforting as it was terrifying.
The Eyes of the Accused will be available from 6th June for the special introductory price of 99p/c. You can order it here. The blog tour also begins on the same day, with thanks to the following bloggers:
As always, thanks for your support.