First post of 2017

I know that, obviously, you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for my first post of 2017… well wait no longer. This is it! (pauses to allow tumbleweed to blow across scene in total silence).

One of the reasons for the delay is simply that there’s not much different going on than at the end of 2016. But, that having been said, let’s lay out what’s ahead for the first months (at least) of 2017.

My current work in progress is The Offspring, the final book in The Szuiltan Trilogy. While sales and response to the first two books has not exactly been overwhelming, I have a story to finish telling so I’m going to tell it! If I was writing to make money, I’d have given up a long time ago. My reasons for writing go far deeper than that.

All drafts of the two novels, Eyes Of The Raven and The Demon Guardian are finished and both are now looking for homes. More news on this as I have it. Keep your fingers (and everything else) crossed.

I have still to make a final decision on whether to self publish The Risen(Book #1 in The Givers Of Life). As it’s a novella I do have that option (see earlier posts and interviews about my children’s despotic ruling on my self publishing activities) but I also keep edging towards the idea of shopping it around. The problem, as I see it, is that, #1, it’s a zombie tale, and there’s a surprising number of publishers (including ones I’ve previously worked with) who won’t even look at anything to do with zombies, and, #2, it’s the first novella in a series that’s not yet written. That’s a lot for a publisher to take on from a small-time author like me.

The situation is similar with Vampire Worms, although as it’s a short story I have put it out there and am currently awaiting a decision. What makes it similar is that, although it is self contained, it certainly has the possibility of being the first in a series. If I do eventually decide to go down that route, and it’s not already been published by that time, I may well look, again, to self publishing for very much the same reasons as with The Risen, although in this case vampires, rather than zombies (they’re not actually vampires as such… you’d need to read the story).

The Offspring marks a return to science fiction, after pretty much a whole year of writing horror. Should I decide to remain in this genre following The Offspring, I do have several ideas with beginnings and basic stories sketched out to choose from. I also have a completed pulp novel, The Frihet Rebellion, to shop around. This was held back almost 18 months by a publisher who, after all that time, decided to reject it, albeit with some positive and nice comments along the way. Now that’s over, I can get on with approaching other publishers and hope to generate some interest. News as it happens, as always.

After releasing the complete novel, A World Of Assassins, for free on Wattpad last year, I will be looking at possibly doing something similar this year. Nothing concrete yet, and I’m partly waiting to see the kind of response A World Of Assassins gets, but it’s a different way of getting some of my older work out there – and possibly newer stuff too. If people enjoy it, they might decide to read more of my work.

In news other than writing – The 1850 Project (the musical collaboration between my son, Jonathan, and myself) remains on hiatus due mainly to recording and financial issues. There’s also an issue with increasing arthritis in my fingers, making prolonged playing of the guitar stupidly painful. Nevertheless, we have songs, we have ideas, and we will return! Talking of songs, I have a large back catalogue of poorly recorded stuff which I would really like to cherry pick from and re-record in good quality, before I’m unable to play anymore. We already have demos of some of the those, and they could be released either under The 1850 Project or as solo projects – that depends on whether Jonathan likes them or not!

After returning to painting at the end of 2016, I am working on a second picture. I’m not rushing these, there’s no need, and tend to do painting in small bursts as a way of relaxing from other things, but I intend to continue precisely because I do find it relaxing and, other than Cathy constantly telling me how she would do it, no pressure.

My real job, of course, is looking after my daughter (whose myriad of conditions and issues are not for this post) but I still have time for creative pursuits – and both things are equally satisfying, in different ways. Both can also lead to serious lack of sleep.

So, that’s it. Hopefully there will be plenty of writing, music and painting ahead for me. Most of all, however, I hope my daughter gets the therapy she needs (we’ve been waiting a long time) and that she improves to the point where she can have a life outside of the safe zone of her bedroom.

Whatever else happens (and despite horrors such as Trump, Brexit, and more Conservative destruction of our society) it has to be better than 2016, doesn’t it? Come on 2017, surely you can manage that!

2016 – Not The Best Of Years

So, 2106 is coming to an end – and good riddance too. It has not been a great year for all sorts of reasons. For a start, we lost a lot of great performers across the arts – people like Victoria Wood, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Greg Lake, Prince and too many others. Hollywood continues to grind out the retreads and remakes (although Deadpool was good). In politics we had the twin disasters of Brexit and Donald Trump. Far too many wars and acts of terrorism continue to plague the world in general. Religion and political ideology continue to be used as justification for hate, prejudice and bigotry. I could go on (really, I could!), but enough is enough.

Not everything was bad. There was some great music released (including albums from Dream Theater, Babymetal, Ana Popovic, Roxette, The Monkeys, Epica and Green Day), small publishers continued to release the books that the traditional publishers are too afraid to, there were a few good tv shows starting or continuing (The Good Place, No Tomorrow, People Of Earth, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Crazyhead, Frequency, Sweet Vicious, Lucifer) among the almost overwhelming mass of mediocre and just plain bad, and my wife finally dumped her too stressful job for an altogether pleasanter one.

But the main reason for this blog is to look at what I’ve been up to this year, in terms of writing anyway.

I have had no books published in 2016. This is a depressing but true statistic. However, this does not mean I’ve been doing nothing.

My short stories Assassin On The Seventy-Fourth Floor (Crimson Streets), The Light Ship (Electric Spec) and Young At Heart (reprint in Red Fez) made an appearance, and two more (Castle Ruins and The Great Prophecy) have been accepted but not yet released. I also had a story, Locusts – The Return, included in a special tribute book for Guy N Smith (Hell Of A Guy) which is not on general sale. Permission has been given for the story to appear elsewhere, but I haven’t decided whether I want to do that just yet.

I wrote a novelette (Vampire Worms), a novel (Eyes Of The Raven) and am currently finishing off the final draft of another novel that still doesn’t have a title! And as soon as this draft is done, I’m finally starting on the third and final novel in The Szuiltan Trilogy, The Offspring.

In terms of works that are out there waiting for responses, I have three short stories, a novelette, a novella, and two novels. This is not a lot compared to some writers, but it’s pretty good for me.

The other thing I’ve done in writing is sign up (again) to Wattpad, and this time I’m determined to make use of it. There are already several short stories, the whole of The Ant Man, and samples of currently unpublished work up there. My main project on it is to, gradually, put the whole of my science fiction thriller novel A World Of Assassins on there. Everything is free to read, and it seems a good place to spread the word 🙂

As far as my other creative outlets are concerned…

The 1850 Project (the collaboration between my son and me) is far from dead, it’s just resting. Mainly because our home studio (or Jonathan’s bedroom as it’s sometimes known) is in complete disarray, and we can’t afford the studio time we would need in our regular place (Whitby Studios) or anywhere else at the moment.

Art. It’s a very long time since I attempted any serious drawing or painting, but my wife was determined to get me to paint something for her. It’s taken her a long time, but she finally won, and I have taken up the brush and the acrylics again, after many years, to produce the painting you see below, which she seems to like (thankfully). I suspect that, now that I’ve started, I will probably continue in 2017. It was fun and quite relaxing to do.

painting-2016

That’s about it. I won’t be sorry to see 2016 go, and can only hope that 2017 will be a better year for all of us. The one thing I can promise is that I’ll continue to write, successfully or otherwise. I hope some of you will continue to read, too.

Thank you for reading.

Still writing… slowly

Long time since my last blog post I think.

Despite the lack of contact, I am still writing, albeit very slowly. My main WIP is fighting me every step of the way, and my complete mastery of procrastination isn’t helping. But I know if I keep working at it, and accept that a lot of what I’ve written might need to be thrown away and the plot rethought, I will reach the breakthrough it needs.

It’s not the first time a book has proved difficult. In fact, most of my books hit that wall at some point – The Village Witch (published last year by Omnium Gatherum) hit the wall numerous times during its creation. Plot lines changed, characters came and went, thousands of words were written, dumped and then rewritten. It’s all par for the course. The one exception was Hard Winter: The Novel (also from Omnium Gatherum) – that one just flowed. But it’s unusual for it to be that easy.

I still write the occasional short story, because it’s nice to see something completed in a relatively short time. I’ve about 10 or 11 out at the moment, waiting for acceptance or rejection (mostly rejection based on experience) and I keep an eye on upcoming themed anthologies in case one just catches my interest. But I can’t deny that my main focus is on the longer pieces of fiction – novellas and novels. That’s where I get the chance to develop characters and more complex storylines. It’s the type of writing I enjoy the most.

In a potentially soul destroying decision, I’ve engaged the services of my son and his English Literature degree to rip my writing apart – which is something he takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in doing. The hope is it will improve my overall writing, if my ego allows me to survive it! Through working with the excellent editing skills of Omnium Gatherum’s Kate Jonez, I have become completely convinced in the usefulness of having someone who knows what they’re talking about look at my writing. A good editor, and I’ve been mostly fortunate, can really help improve the writing and the flow of a story (I’ll ignore the bad ones who think editing means rewriting – they can crawl away and die). Both my wife and my son are very good at improving the readability of a story, finding those lines that are clumsy or just suck! But my son currently has the time, and can bring the skills he picked up doing his degree to the task. If nothing else, it should be interesting.

If you’ve liked some of the books I’ve written so far, stick with me. More are on the way. It just takes time…

Beautiful, peaceful Devon…

 

Beautiful, peaceful Devon

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The English Riviera

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Home to many places of interest and splendor…

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…and the village of Byre

 

Home of The Village Witch!

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Coming your way on June 8 2015

 

Pre-order the kindle version now

Published by Omnium Gatherum

Getting going again

It’s been a strange difficult time for my writing, but I’m proud that I never actually stopped putting words into the computer… even if I might go back and change most of them at a later date 🙂

Then the other day I realised I had four short stories just sitting there doing nothing! This is not allowed. I’d just got forgetful and, well, lazy I guess. So, some research on the excellent ralan.com (if you’re a genre writer and you don’t go to Ralan for potential markets… well, why not? You should.) and all four stories are back out there in the world looking for an editor who likes them. Rejections will no doubt follow, but that’s the way the game goes – accept the rejection in good grace and turn the story round and send it right back out again to someone else. Don’t stop. Never give in. Just keep them out there, circulating, until they find the right home.

It feels good to be getting going again with this whole thing. After all, if I don’t push my own writing, why should anyone else?

I’ll let you know if and when any of the stories find a friendly and interested editor.

Keep sticking with me. I’ll come out of this slump and get the words working again. More stories and books are on the way, they’re all lining up in my mind, waiting their turn!

Gratitude

I’m feeling in a grateful sort of mood, so I wanted to say thank you to those people who have taken the risk and bought one or more of my books over the last few years. There’s not that many of you but I am very grateful to you all. It’s a great feeling to know someone is reading your work, and if they enjoy it then the feeling is magnified untold times. Those of you who have put reviews on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else, they are much appreciated whether good or bad. And if you’ve read something of mine and haven’t reviewed it, perhaps you would consider doing so? The reviews not only provide wonderful feedback for me but also help other readers decide whether to buy or not.

Thank you also to those Editors who have taken a chance on me – whether in book, magazine or anthology format. As much as I dread waiting for the reply about a submission, it feels great when a story is actually accepted (we won’t talk about the rejections here!).

While I’m busy gushing (!) a quick mention of two “real world” friends, Steve Upham and Tony Longworth. As well as being consistently supportive of my efforts, Steve (publisher with Screaming Dreams and an amazing artist) has both published me and provided fantastic covers for many of my books.  Tony (musician, film music composer and “scary Uncle Tony” to my kids) has known me even longer than Steve and yet still says nice things about both my writing and my music. He has also provided the amazing video trailers for several of my books. Without these two people my books and my marketing efforts (such as they are) would not look anywhere near as good as they do.

I can’t leave this post without a quick mention of my family.

My wife, Cathy, who may not always find my obsession with writing easy to live with but continues to love me and care for me (and no one is more puzzled by this than me!). She’s also a very tough editor when she takes an interest, and my writing is always better afterwards.

My son, Jonathan, who not only uses the fact he’s studying for an English Literature degree to sometimes pick apart my writing, but is also responsible for persuading me out of “retirement” to play guitar again as half of The 1850 Project. We’re still writing and recording almost five years after the original “one-off” project! Recently he has also been putting his design skills to good use as a book cover designer for The Noose Is Waiting. I’m hoping he’ll do more covers in the future.

My daughter, Rhianne, the “baby” of the family who, nevertheless, manages to provide me with more emotional support and understanding than anyone else (I’m sure it’s meant to be the other way round). She also has a natural ability on keyboards that I desperately want her to push on with. She’s already better on them than either me or Jonathan and needs to become part of The 1850 Project as soon as possible.

And so I bring to a close this most sickeningly sweet and emotional post. I will probably regret it in a day or so and it may even be deleted… but for the moment I’ll let it stand.

Thank you.

(Leaves the auditorium to stunned silence from the audience, broken only by an occasional wet explosion as someone with a weaker stomach than most throws up in a bucket helpfully provided by the organisers).

The words are all finished…

The words are all finished. There will be no more editing on the next two C&N Publications releases: The Lion On Androcles by Neil Davies from a story by Colin P Davies and The Noose Is Waiting (And Other Stories) by W A E Davies & Neil Davies. All that remains is to put the formatting together and get covers organised – so, when I say ‘all’…

As a teaser, here are the opening sections of the two books.

THE LION ON ANDROCLES

A TRAVELLERS’ REST ON ANDROCLES

Lieutenant Walker shifted uncomfortably in his saddle and urged his horse further up the steep rocky trail. The back hooves of his partner’s horse momentarily lost traction, scrabbled, and kicked up sand and pebbles, stinging Walker’s face. He spat dirt from his mouth and wished the patrol were over.

They had been travelling for almost three weeks through the searing Benita desert. The last oasis marked on the map was almost two days back, and their canteens were still half full, but the growths of beard itched with sand and crawling insects that not even the water of the oasis could dislodge. Not far ahead lay the small town of Pyre, and from there it was another four-day trek to the Garrison.

Private Burton, riding point, was only on his second patrol and still retained some enthusiasm for the long trek, even in the face of his superior officer’s obvious cynicism. Nevertheless, he would be glad when this one was over and he could sleep in a proper bed for a few nights. Then he would be ready for the next one. Being part of the mercenary force on Androcles was not a glamorous life, but it paid well.

Up ahead, Pyre appeared ghost-like through the waves of shimmering heat, buildings seeming to float above the sand. The ironworks that had birthed the town lay deserted to the west, almost lost beneath the drifts of a hundred sandstorms, but some people remained, scraping a living off travellers and the regular mercenary patrols who detoured to refresh themselves before the final push to the Garrison.

Walker and Burton slowed their horses as they entered the town’s main street. When the ironworks had died so had the residents’ civic pride. What was left of Pyre was ramshackle and ugly, and much of it centred on the tavern, where travellers were solicited by the townspeople, tempted to spend their money on whatever the town could offer: Guides; labourers; whores. And it was where weary mercenaries nearing the end of their patrols could find refreshment and respite from the heat of the desert.

With their horses tied near a half-empty horse-trough, Walker and Burton pushed their way through the tavern’s old wooden door and into the dark interior.

The room was busy, a bustling crowd surrounding the bar, others sitting at the small round tables placed haphazardly about the floor. Walker elbowed his way through, followed by Burton, who revelled in the sidelong glances, the fearful whisperings. It was a high greater than any he had found through artificial means, this feeling of power. The power of fear. The power of hatred.

“Two beers. And make sure they’re cold.”

Walker watched as the Landlord hurried to fulfil his order, leaving others who had stood at the bar much longer waiting for their drinks. No one complained. There were definite advantages in wearing the mercenary uniform.

He looked around the room, taking in the faces, the expressions, with an eye used to identifying those who felt guilt and those who posed a threat. Scratching at his beard, he dragged a dead insect from its tangles and dropped it to the floor. As the beer arrived he threw a few coins onto the bar, not knowing if it was enough and not caring. The landlord wouldn’t argue.

He swallowed two gulps of the tepid beer, grimacing slightly at the bitter taste. Served in one of the larger towns, or even at the Garrison, this would have been thrown back in disgust. But here, towards the end of a long patrol, it was as welcome as the best drink money could buy. He made no complaint.

A heavily shadowed alcove in the far wall drew his attention. A solitary drinker sat there nursing a half full glass of beer, head down, a mess of black hair straggling across his face. He looked tired, unwashed, a traveller too poor to own a horse or travel by coach. He looked like many others in the tavern that day, but something tugged at Walker’s memory. Something important.

“What is it?” said Burton, noting his partner’s intent interest even as he pulled thirstily at his own beer.

“Not sure yet. Possibly nothing.”

Walker pulled the communicator from his belt, tapped in his access code, rolled his finger over the scanner and waited. It took less than a second for the machine to verify his identity and flash the menu onto the small display. All the time he kept glancing back at the figure in the alcove. He began flicking through the Kerexz’s most wanted, smiled as he found the image he was looking for and turned the screen to Burton.

Burton read the entry beneath the picture.

Yso Nakema. Earth operative. Top priority. Apprehend.

The last bore the seal of the Kerexz High Command.

“We take him alive then,” said Burton, a confident smile on his face. “Shouldn’t be hard. He doesn’t look like much trouble.”

Walker said nothing, a slight frown on his face, almost invisible behind the beard. While it was true this Yso Nakema was smaller than both he and Burton, the loose jacket he wore could hide any kind of physique, scrawny, muscular… it was impossible to tell. He was certain his experience and Burton’s natural roughness and street fighting ability weighed things heavily in their favour, but he refused to allow himself the dubious comfort of overconfidence.

“Let’s just get this over with. Maybe the Garrison will send out some transport once we have him, if he’s so important.”

Burton nodded agreement. “I wouldn’t say no to a nice comfortable flight back just now. Too many days in the saddle.”

Walker almost smiled, wondering how Burton would feel when he’d been on as many patrols as he had. He supposed he had been like Burton once, but it was too far back to remember.

He put down his beer and began to make his way through the tables towards the alcove. Burton, after a moment’s hesitation and one last drink, followed him.

The man in the alcove did not move and showed no awareness of the two mercenaries as they approached him. Not until they stood above him, almost filling the remaining space in the alcove, did he raise his head and look at them through tired, emotionless grey eyes.

Burton was the first to speak.

“Yso Nakema. We are placing you under arrest on order of the Kerexz High Command.”

His voice was loud, rising above the babble of the tavern.

Walker said nothing, waiting for the denial or the sudden burst for freedom. Neither came. The man sitting before them continued to stare coldly, unblinking.

The rest of the tavern had fallen silent, the other travellers and staff watching apprehensively, many wondering whether they were next on the mercenaries’ list.

Burton drew his gun, an old fashioned revolver, standard issue among mercenaries.

“Stand!”

He felt his wrist twist and snap, saw the gun slip from fingers that seared with sudden pain. He hit the floor, landing heavily on his back, with no idea how he had got there. Agony burst through his body.

As soon as he saw the stranger move towards Burton, Walker reached for his weapon. It was only halfway out of the holster when something thudded into his groin. He instinctively doubled over, aware his gun was removed from its holster and tossed aside. As he fell to one knee he saw Burton trying to push himself back up and wanted to shout at him to stay down.

The stranger’s hands moved, the fingers almost casually snapping into Burton’s throat. The young mercenary was dead before his head hit the floor.

Driven by rage, Walker forced himself to his feet, trying to ignore the ache in his groin, pulling out his 12 inch serrated hunting knife. Fuck the orders! He was going to kill this Yso Nakema.

He lunged, knew his blade was going to plunge deep into the man’s chest and was surprised when the point hit nothing but the wooden seatback. How could he have missed? Where had the man gone?

 There was sudden sharp pain from a blow to his face, the crack of bone breaking as a foot stamped into the side of his knee, the bolt of agony that shot upwards through his body. He fell, saw the stranger back away, the other occupants of the tavern crowd around. Voices faded in and out around him. He could barely make out the words as he struggled to stay conscious.

“Can’t leave him alive…. The soldiers will come…. Best to remove the evidence… kill him.”

Kill him.

Those last two words focussed his concentration, his effort, and he tried, desperately, to remember where his gun had been thrown.

Looking up, he found it in the hands of the barman who had served him just a few minutes earlier. The barrel was pointed at Walker’s head.

He felt no more pain as the gun was fired, the bullet slamming into his forehead and exploding from the back of his skull to lodge deep in the floor of the tavern.

 

*********************************************************

THE NOOSE IS WAITING

1

Fred Bulsgrove’s body sprawled across his office desk, a double-edged dagger standing proud in his back. The wheels of the charlady’s trolley had skidded in the slowly congealing blood on the floor. Her screams had raised the alarm.

      Detective Inspector Jim Ashcroft of Scotland Yard looked at the wheel tracks and the shoeprint at the edge of the blood and knew that it had already stopped spreading by the time the charlady made her grisly discovery. Fred Bulsgrove had been dead for some time.

      He shrugged his shoulders, shifting the weight of the tweed overcoat, and fingered the brim of his Homburg hat, uncomfortably stiff and new. They had been a Christmas present from his wife. She had assured him they were what every fashionable detective would be wearing in 1949. It was only the 13th  of January and already he doubted her.

      The scene of Fred Bulsgrove’s murder was exceedingly normal, as were most such scenes in his experience. There was nothing particularly unusual about the office, other than the dead body on the desk. It was, in fact, a very utilitarian place. A place of work and little else. Even the body, when it fell, had not dislodged anything from the desk, other than a few sheets of foolscap and a pen. No family photographs. Nothing personal at all.

      A sudden commotion in the corridor outside disturbed his examination and, seconds later, Detective Clark from the Fingerprint Branch hurried past the uniformed constable by the door. The young man barely had time to move out of the way.

      Jock Clark was a man in a hurry. There was always another murder to go to, and too few people in his office to cover them. He nodded briefly to Jim before he began his examination of the murder scene

      Jim stepped over to the constable, who had now recovered his position at the doorway.

      “I presume nothing’s been touched constable?”

      “Everything’s just as it was found sir,” answered the uniformed policeman, first on the scene after the charlady’s screams had raised the alarm. He stood at attention, his helmet tucked under his arm, young and eager. He looked a little pale. Jim wondered how many dead bodies he had seen before.

      “What do you think happened here constable?”

      The constable hesitated a moment and his cheeks flushed pink. He wasn’t used to a superior asking his opinion. His voice shook slightly as he spoke.

      “From what I saw when I arrived it would seem that the perpetrator of the crime entered via the washroom door by way of the fire escape and stabbed the victim in the back while he was seated at his desk, sir.”

      Jim nodded, his eyes roaming the spacious office, the large desk, the private washroom, door ajar. The rising sun cast macabre shadows around the scene but could not disguise the fact that, if their offices were any indication, located in the very heart of London, F. S. Bulsgrove & co Ltd, Quantity Surveyors, seemed to be doing good business. Not everyone had done so well in the years following the end of the war but, according to the typed report handed to him by Detective Chief Inspector O’Toole before he left the Yard, Fred Bulsgrove had been successful and, as a businessman at least, ruthless.

      “Thank you constable. Would you mind standing guard outside to make sure no one else enters please?”

      “Yes sir.”

      As the constable left, reseating his helmet on his head, Jim approached Detective Clark. The man from the Fingerprint Branch wore a well-worn suit, looking suspiciously like demob material to Jim, who owned a similar garment hanging in the wardrobe back home. He watched as the younger man took a packet of powder and a small brush from the black bag he carried and began to carefully dust over all the exposed surfaces.

      Detective Clark worked in near silence, occasionally humming quietly to himself. He said nothing as he examined the dagger and the desk, finally speaking as he dusted the washroom doorknob.

      “Got something.”

      Jim leaned in for a closer look. He could make out the slight whorls of a finger in the light dust.

      “Enough for identification?”

      Clark nodded. “Could be. Have to wait until I’m back at the office to be sure, but definitely worth a try.”

      Jim smiled as the marks were impressed onto special paper. Had the murderer made such a simple mistake?

      Encouraged, he gave his full attention to the body of the victim while Detective Clark continued dusting inside the washroom. A strong hand had thrust the dagger, the hilt was pressed against the immaculate pinstripe of the suit, and there were, at first count, seven other stab wounds in the back.

      “Nothing in the washroom,” said Clark, re-entering the main office. “Clean as anything. You get any ideas from the body?”

      “Well,” said Jim slowly, pushing the Homburg further back on his head. “I don’t think any burglar did this. Too many stab wounds. This was personal.”

      He leaned forward, examining the hands of the victim closely.

      “No sign that Bulsgrove tried to defend himself either. Most likely the killer sneaked up behind and stabbed him before he had a chance.”

      “If he came from the washroom he must have been a ghost,” said Detective Clark, packing his brush back into his black bag. “Other than on the doorknob I didn’t get anything.”

      Jim was taking a closer look at where the trail of blood had dripped from the edge of the desk, when the sun, rising higher in the morning sky, sparked a reflection off something by one of the desk legs. Curious, he bent and picked it up by the edges.

      “What is it?” asked Clark, stepping closer.

      “A brown coat button.” Jim turned the object back and forth in his fingers. “A plain brown coat button.”

      Both he and Clark looked quickly around the office, reaching the same conclusion simultaneously.

      “No coats here,” said Clark.

      “I wonder where it came from?”

      Clark quickly dusted the flat face of the button but there were no fingerprints. Disappointed, Jim dropped it into his pocket.

      “Maybe it got pulled off the murderer’s coat in the struggle?” said Clark as he busied himself arranging the contents of his black bag to his own rigorous standards.

      “What struggle?” said Jim. “There’s no other evidence of a struggle, so how did the button come off the coat and end up on the floor?”

      He turned and looked towards the washroom door. With one finger he pushed his Homburg back and scratched his forehead.

      “Why would a murderer, careful enough to leave no prints on the weapon or around the body, be so careless as to leave their fingerprint on the washroom doorknob, and lose a button off their coat?”

      Clark shook his head before snapping his bag shut and smoothing down his demob suit with the palms of his hands.

      “There’s a lot of questions on this one Jim. Glad it’s yours and not mine.” He grabbed up his black bag and, with his always rapid, always in-a-hurry step, made for the door of the office. “I’ll let you know what I find on this fingerprint as soon as I can.”

      Jim nodded and would have said “thank you”, but Clark had already gone. The always rushed man from the Fingerprint Branch was right though. There were certainly plenty of questions to be answered in this case, and so far, Jim was puzzled.