Family collaborations

A quick look through my published works will show you that, although I usually write things on my own, occasionally there have been collaborations with certain family members. I think it’s probably important to point out, for clarity, that these were not face-to-face collaborations, but rather my taking (with their permission) old stories they had written and rewriting/reworking them to a lesser or greater degree.

I enjoyed doing these immensely, partly, I suspect, because the basic stories were already written and I could concentrate on the writing. No hold-ups while I work out the next direction the plot is going to take. So, let’s take a look at these “collaborations” and see who wrote the original stories.

Colin P Davies

Colin is my older brother (the middle of three of us) and is a successful science fiction writer with published work in such august publications as Asimov’s Science Fiction (where he’s almost a regular!) and The Mammoth Book Of Best New SF #18. You can visit his website here – Colin P Davies. I feel his work is of a more serious and literary style than my own (although not devoid of humour). If I had to choose, I’d say he’s a better “writer” than me, but I hope I can match him on the “storytelling”, which I feel is my strong point. Anyway, all my envy aside… 🙂 way back when we were both young, and we were both writing (in long hand), He wrote two stories in particular that stuck with me. Many years later, I asked him if I could take these stories and rewrite them. Thankfully he said yes, and here are the results.

The Lion On Androcles (2013)

The Lion On Androcles copy

Not only is the original story by Colin, but the cover artwork is too – an old oil painting of his that I came across in my dad’s. I just felt it fitted the story. Here’s the blurb!

Yso Nakema (The Lion), famed and feared Earth agent, is on Androcles, an old colony world now ruled by the alien Kerexz. His mission is unknown, even to himself. He will learn of it as he meets his contacts on his journey. It’s a tried and trusted mission technique, but this time things are going wrong. Unexpected obstacles rise in his way, the enemy seem to be everywhere they shouldn’t be, he fails to make contacts and, worst of all, he finds himself getting involved with the problems of people he meets on the way.

With aliens, space cruisers, desert nomads, pirates and much more, The Lion On Androcles is a must-read Science Fiction Adventure.

The Evil Incantation (2014)

The Evil Incantation

The Evil Incantation

This time the cover is by the amazingly talented artist and photographer, Steve Upham. Here’s the blurb:

Ex-Special Forces soldier Tim Galton and History Professor Alexander Hall are adventurers and paranormal investigators. But they don’t just investigate haunted houses, they search out the darkest, most dangerous of creatures and do battle. Now they’re in Romania, facing a deadly alliance between Satanists and Vampires and heading inexorably towards an encounter with the most evil creature they’ve ever faced, deep in Transylvania.

The two main characters, Tim Galton and Professor Hall (or at least, my version of them) went on to feature in my novel The Village Witch (2015). If you’re interested, you can read more about how the characters in the two stories are linked, or not linked, depending on your point of view with alternate realities, in my blog post How The Village Witch and The Evil Incantation (do not) link.

W A E Davies

William Anthony Elwyn Davies is my dad. I think it’s fair to say that both Colin and myself get our writing obsession from him. Although he was never published, he was writing stories from an early age. The earliest stories I’ve had access to date from 1949, when he would have been 18/19 years old. I have no doubt he was writing before then, but these are the earliest ones that survive – in his rather scrawling handwriting, gathered together in home-made books.

With his permission, I took these early stories (ranging from 1949 to 1955) and reworked them. This was great fun, particularly with the settings that were current to him when writing, but historical to me. I did some research, looked up some of the incidental details that would have meant nothing to my dad at the time, but were fascinating to me, and even added some historical touches myself that fitted the dates of the stories. It was also fun to step out of my usual comfort zone of horror or science fiction, and work on straight detective, adventure and thriller stories. The result was The Noose Is Waiting And Other Stories (2013) – unfortunately this has no page of its own on my site (something I need to rectify) but can be seen in the list of C&N Publications books.

The Noose Is Waiting

The cover is by my son, Jonathan Davies (this was definitely a family affair!).

Here’s the blurb:

Murder, spies, lost cities, blackmail and ghostly monks. All can be found inside these pages. Originally written between 1949 and 1955 by W A E Davies, revised and rewritten in 2013 by his son, Neil Davies. Locations and time period remain unchanged.

The Noose Is Waiting
The Hidden City Of Ffan Su
Dearest Heart
Blackmail For Breakfast
The Night Of Screaming Terror

Five tales of crime, adventure and horror await…

Best of all, my dad is still writing! Although he took a break for a long time, around 2000 he decided to sit down and have a go at writing a novel. The result was the well written and exciting wartime thriller, which, in 2013, he allowed me to publish for him under the C&N Publications banner. The book is called The Ring Of Treachery (2013).

ringoftreachery_frontcover_200

You can blame me for the cover! Here’s the blurb:

Hanson and Hopkins, Private Investigators, because even during wartime infidelity and divorce are good business. Murder isn’t their usual line, but when one of their clients is killed they feel obliged to investigate. They never expected it to lead them into a world of Nazi sympathizers, spies and Hitler’s plans to invade England!

My dad is now 87 and, currently, not in the best of health. Hopefully he will recover and one of the things he might get back to is his writing. Very recently, before his current illness, he showed me a short science fiction story he had written that, he said, could also be the start of a novel if there was enough mileage in the idea. It was really very good (and I’m not saying that just because he’s my dad). I encouraged him to go with the novel idea. I believe it would make a great novel, and I hope he decides to write it.

Cathy Davies

I couldn’t talk about collaborations with family members without mentioning my wife, Cathy (who you can find on Facebook and on her own blog site. Although she’s not a writer as such (she used to write poetry a long time ago, but so far won’t let me publish any of it!) she is a fountain of ideas and criticism. Many stories have begun with ideas thrown out in our occasional story brainstorming sessions, quite often from her (strange!) dreams. And, although it can be hard to take at times, many stories have benefited from her criticisms. Admittedly, the direction I take the ideas are often not to Cathy’s liking, but the story still sprung from her original thought. If you look through my short story collections, you will find many stories that come from “an idea by Cathy Davies”. And, in particular, the short book The Ant Man (2013).

The Ant Man

Digman Marley works for Antman Exterminators. He used to work at the old chemical factory on the hill, before it went out of business. His life is hard, dull and predictable. But something is happening up at the old factory, and the ants he’s called to exterminate are acting strangely, and, although he doesn’t know it, this week things are going to change forever for Digman Marley.

The Short Story ‘The Ant Man’ is Neil Davies’s tribute to both the Black & White B-Movies he still enjoys watching and the pulp fiction he still enjoys reading. He just hopes he’s done it (and them) justice.

The Midnight Hour_200

A short story collection featuring 14 tales of dark imagination.

The Midnight Hour
Argument
Ribbons Of Blood
The Shadow
When The Fires Die
Photographs
The Perfect Marriage
Road Rage
Virgin Flesh
Death By Popcorn
Frozen Food
Away With The Fairies
Bonding
The Extreme Makeover Of Helen Watson

 

Interludes

Interludes (paperback/ebook)

11 more tales of dark imagination and horror, with “holiday interludes” from the seasons of Halloween and Christmas.

The Box
The Pathological Good Samaritan
Holiday Interlude #1 – Halloween: Tradition
The Sarcophagus (with Rhianne Davies)
Holiday Interlude #2 – Christmas: A Christmas Pilgrim
Conversation
The Killing Tree
Holiday Interlude #3 – Halloween: Young At Heart
The Cleansing
Holiday Interlude #4 – Christmas: Two Years To The Day
The Ward On The Hill

Cathy also used to write her own website, the popular Cathy’s Weightloss Diary. Although the site no longer exists, pages from it are being compiled in a series of books, the first of which is available from, once again, our own family publishing concern, C&N Publications.

frontcover_200

Rhianne Davies

Rhianne is my daughter. She only writes occasionally, but it’s good when she does. We collaborated on one story so far, The Sarcophagus, (my only face-to-face collaboration) which you can find in my collection Interludes. There is one other story, set in Rhianne’s own fantasy world, where most of her stories take place, but she won’t allow it to be published just yet. Hopefully one day…

I am grateful for having such a talented and generous family, and working on all the above stories was great fun. It’s just a shame I’ve used up all the available material… if there was more, I would be jumping at the chance to rewrite and rework it.

If you read any of the above books, I hope you enjoy them and appreciate that they are not my work alone. I had a lot of help 🙂

 

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The Story Behind… Raised In Evil

The Story Behind… Raised In Evil

Welcome to the second of my “The Story Behind” posts. This time looking at my horror novel, Raised In Evil.

The history

Back in 1975 (when I was 16) I wrote a story called Black. It contained the basic idea that would eventually become Raised In Evil. And if you think any of the horror in my stories is extreme, let me just say that I toned down some of the stuff from Black to use in Raised In Evil. I was one sick fuck when I was 16 (some might say I still am, but who cares?). I also left out the werewolves and vampires. It seems that, when I wrote Black, I threw everything at it!

To a certain extent, the decision to write Raised In Evil was a reaction to having finished Welcome Home. The supernatural aspect of Welcome Home is subtle – almost non-existent to be honest. I wanted to write a horror where there could be no doubt that what was happening was supernatural. Welcome to demons, dead ex-priests, psychic powers and a particularly bleak view of the afterlife. Throw into the mix a down-to-earth murder investigation that ties into the weird stuff and you’re off.

The setting

The other difference from Welcome Home is that, while that book took place largely in a fictitious town in a very real county (Cheshire), most of Raised In Evil takes place in real places, and most of them around where I live on the Wirral.

So, the first body is found on Thurstaston Hill (just down the road).

The Viewpoint on Thurstaston Hill   © Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Viewpoint on Thurstaston Hill © Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The detective investigating this murder and subsequent ones is based at the police station in Heswall (my closest town).

Heswall Police Station (c) Rept0n1x under the Creative Commons License and sourced from wikimedia.org

Heswall Police Station (c) Rept0n1x under the Creative Commons License and sourced from wikimedia.org

Another body is found floating in the Marine Lake at West Kirby (a ten minute drive from where I now live, and the closest town to where I grew up).

West Kirby Marine Lake courtesty of http://www.wirralwebsite.co.uk/

West Kirby Marine Lake courtesy of http://www.wirralwebsite.co.uk/

The big house where the historical raid takes place is in Caldy (another short drive from where I live). The picturesque village where Raymond works for a small computer company is fictitious, but to anyone who knows the area, the inspiration is probably very obvious. It’s also where I worked for almost 6 years for a small computer company (now defunct). It was to avoid direct comparisons to this company that I made the place fictitious. Other action takes place around Flint Mountain (near where my wife lived when I first met her) and in Rhyl (a place I knew from childhood visits and then re-visited when I started dating the woman who would later foolishly marry me).

It needs to be said that, while the above places are all very real, I took certain liberties with them when writing the book, so you won’t always find things in reality as you find them in the story. Some places simply fell victim to the length of time it takes to write and publish a book (for example, the cafe where Frank spends time in Heswall actually existed, but had gone by the time the book was published), others either don’t exist at all or have been “adapted” for use.

Publishing history

Both Welcome Home and Raised In Evil had been completed some time before either were published. Nothing unusual in that, I know. Whereas I chose to self publish Welcome Home in ebook and paperback together, the history with Raised In Evil is slightly more complicated.

Originally, Raised In Evil was to be published in paperback by Screaming Dreams (who had earlier published my short story collection The Midnight Hour). At that time, SD did not do ebooks, so I chose to self publish the ebook version. At one point there was a US small press interested in publishing the paperback for the US market (SD having UK rights only), but that ran into editorial problems on some of the more extreme bits of horror. I had agreed to tone down any sections they highlighted, but in the end, unfortunately, they decided not to go ahead.

Everything look okay for the SD release in the UK, until Steve Upham (the man behind SD) suffered a heart attack. This obviously put everything on hold while Steve (who is a friend as well as a publisher – and a superb artist) recovered. Through no fault of his own, he had to stop his other work (his main source of income) and severely cut back on SD releases (stopping altogether for a short while). During this time we agreed that he would release the paperback rights for Raised In Evil back to me and I subsequently self published the paperback, to accompany the already published ebook.

The cover of both versions is my design using a pre-existing piece of artwork from Mr Steve Upham himself. I have been fortunate to have his involvement on nearly all of my self published pieces – making them look professional.

In conclusion

So, there you have it. A quick look behind the scenes of Raised In Evil.

As always, if you have read the book please review it (on Amazon or elsewhere), and if you haven’t read it I hope you will give it a try. Let me know what you think.

Raised In Evil

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.