Free Serialisation Of A Novel

A few weeks back I began a process of putting various complete older short stories/novelettes, and excerpts from new, currently unpublished novellas and novels, on Wattpad, where people can read them for free.

Last week (or was it earlier this week? I forget!) I began a new project on there: the serialisation of one of my older novels – the science fiction thriller A World Of Assassins (click here for full info on the book). So far I have uploaded four chapters and, although there is no regular schedule, I will continue uploading chapters on the basis of “several a week” until the full work is there. For free.

I want to see how this works, and if it generates any interest. If it does, I may consider doing the same with other self-published novels and, perhaps, even a work in progress (second draft at least… I wouldn’t want to inflict a first draft on anyone!). I know others have done similar things with some success, over time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Click the cover image below to go to Wattpad and get started.

Thank you for reading.

A World Of Assassins

 

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The Village Witch has been released!

The Village Witch has been released!

My latest horror novel, The Village Witch, has been released by Omnium Gatherum today on the kindle store. Go there and download it NOW! And if you do, let me know what you think. I’m very happy with it. It’s possibly the best thing I’ve written so far. So I’m interested to see what the readers think – good or bad (but mostly good I hope). The paperback should be following soon. Follow the link below for more information on the book and the links to buy it.

THE VILLAGE WITCH

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

Horror Collection out now for Kindle

HorrorCollection

For the first time, I have decided to put my two full length horror novels, Welcome Home and Raised In Evil, together into one volume – my Horror Collection. Currently this volume is only available for the kindle and is competitively priced at under $3 (under £2).

The amazing cover artwork is by Steve Upham of Screaming Dreams

Quotes from Amazon reviews of Welcome Home

“You are introduced to 2 serial killers, a gang of teenagers, a randy policeman and a hit man!
How these brilliant, deep characters all come together in one amazing kill fest is just genius.”

” I can honestly say that until almost the end I had no idea the story would end the way it did. Once I started the book I could not put it down.”

“The part of the serial killer was so well written and graphic I was sure the author was a serial killer writing about his past murders.”

Quotes from Amazon reviews of Raised In Evil

“As the horror marches forth no-one is safe and there are some serious plot twists and some subtle humour moments which only serve to calm your nerves again before the next twang of hell.”

“I found Raised in Evil to be profoundly disturbing. I normally pride myself in being able to finish a full length novel in a matter of hours, however I constantly found myself having to take a break from this story because of its intensity. This is not a bad thing at all. This is a testament to how well Neil Davies can can reach the mind and, yes even the nerves of his readers.”

“Neil Davies has written a brilliant story, told it well and kept me entertained.”

Horror Collection: Two Complete Novels is available now from Amazon. Click the links below.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Death Takes Over – a grim tale from my Mother’s imagination

Below is a (very) short story (what today we would call flash fiction) found among various bits and pieces belonging to my Mother, Marie T Davies, who died a few years ago. It surprised me on several levels: first because I never knew she had written any fiction at all, and second because it shows a dark, grim side of her character that I was not aware of. In later years she loved Science Fiction (books, TV, film) but there was obviously a morbid side to her interests as well. Perhaps this finally goes some way to explaining my love of horror, which my brothers don’t particularly have and neither did my parents, or so I thought!

The date of this grim little tale is unknown but the other items it was found among and the use of her maiden name, Jelley, would place it before my parents’ wedding, which was in 1950. Talking to my Dad, he is certain it was written before he met her, so in all likelihood it pre-dates 1947. Other than that, no one seems to be able to say and there is no date on the writing itself. Note to authors – date your writing. One day it might matter to someone!

It would seem my Mother wrote very little. I have this short story, one other complete one (which shows another side of her character, a off-kilter sense of humour which I did know about but had never seen translated into fiction before), and a couple of incomplete stories. Of these, one seems to be a straight romantic tale, but of course I don’t know where it might have been heading in her mind, and the other is a children’s adventure very much in the mode of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five type books, with a “haunted” castle and everything else you’d expect. What there is of it is fun. Whether I would ever be tempted to try and finish something so outside my own writing style, I honestly can’t say.

So, anyway, after all that, here is the story for the interest of family, friends or just people who like to read old stories and wonder, like me, what might have developed if the writer had continued writing. I think the style shows promise (remembering the time it was written in). I really wish my Mother had written more. You see sides of people in their writing that they don’t always show in day-to-day living.

Editing note: Only the most basic of editing has been done on this story. It is very much as it was written.

 

DEATH TAKES OVER

(The Tragic End Of A Girl And Her Mother)

Marie Jelley

One moonless night, with the wind doing its utmost to throw the few people who were out to the ground, a young girl fought her way along a lonely path. She was on an errand of utmost importance. Her mother lay dangerously ill with pneumonia and a doctor she must have.

The girl sobbed bitterly to herself. Her mother was the only thing she had in the world. Every now and again she would turn and look about fearfully, for was it not only last week a defenceless young girl had been brutally murdered. One can imagine the terror of this poor girl.

She was passing a derelict farmstead, which lies about a quarter of a mile from the village, when she thought she saw a man move away from an outer building. She screamed, and then realised it was but the movement of a tree. Her shattered nerves made her think every movement was a lurking man.

She said to herself, “Nina Grey, get a grip on yourself, or you’ll never get a doctor for mother.”

A quarter of an hour later she stumbled up to the doctor’s house and rang the bell. A maid answered the door.

“Is Doctor Wright in?” she asked in-between gasps, for she had run out of breath.

“No Miss, I’m sorry. He had an emergency call about an hour ago and hasn’t got back yet.”

All Nina’s self control snapped then. She fell against the door post and sobbed. The maid said, “You’d better come in Miss. He should be back in a minute.”

After she had given her something to drink to pull her together, the doctor still hadn’t returned.

“What house is he at?” she asked the maid.

“At Mrs Evans, 43 Hollow Brook Lane,” she replied.

“Thank you,” Nina answered. “I might meet him on the way.”

She left the doctor’s house and proceeded towards Hollow Brook Lane, which was at the other end of the village. She met the doctor half way there and hailed him.

“Nina!” he said. “What on earth are you doing out on a night like this? Is your mother worse?”

“Yes Doctor Wright, much worse. Oh please hurry and go to her.”

“But what about you Nina? I can’t leave you to walk home by yourself.”

“Please, don’t worry about me. Hurry to mother. She might even be dead now!” She choked the last words.

“Now, now, Nina, I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that. But if you’re sure you’ll be all right I’ll go straight away.”

“Yes! Yes! Hurry. I’ll be all right.”

Now you might think, why doesn’t he take her in his car, but he’s only a village doctor and only has a bike.

He rode off at a rate the force of the wind would allow.

Nina retraced her steps, hoping against hope he would be in time.

She had got back as far as the derelict farm when a movement behind her made her turn with a startled cry.

A tall man in a long black overcoat and felt hat advanced towards her very slowly.

Fear held her rooted to the spot till he was almost up to her. Then she gave a terror stricken cry and turned to run. But he sprang with a snarl that would have put any tiger to shame.

She screamed but twice. Then her lifeless body was cast to the ground and her murderer vanished into the night like an evil spirit.

It was on his way home, four hours later, after fighting a losing battle for Mrs Grey’s life, that the doctor came across Nina’s lifeless body. He gently picked her up and took her back to the house. He laid her beside the dead body of Mrs Grey, for she had died one hour ago.

Both were buried in the little village graveyard quietly.

The murderer of the young girls was caught three months later, after killing four other girls.

As he went to the scaffold, he laughed a maniacal laugh. For it was just so. He was a madman!

 

THE END

The Noose Is Waiting And Other Stories

Image

Introduction

These are stories that have remained in my memory for many decades. I remember picking up the hand-written copies of The Noose Is Waiting And Other Stories (after which this new book is titled and from which the stories The Noose In Waiting and Dearest Heart come), and The Hidden City Of Ffan Su when I was younger, after finding them tucked away on a bookshelf. Both were dated 1949, and that in itself fascinated me. These were stories written by my Dad when he was 19 years old, just four years after the Second World War had ended! When I came to re-read them recently, not only did I still think the basic stories were good, but I enjoyed the unconscious bits of history and use of language in them.

Blackmail For Breakfast was a story I discovered on the same shelf and at the same time as the books above. This one, however, was typed and, therefore, a lot easier to read! It was dated 1954 and seemed to be an English take on the hard boiled American Private Eye films of the 40’s and 50’s. It became my favourite of my Dad’s old stories. Written when he would have been 24 years old, it demonstrated that his writing had moved on in those five years separating the books. Blackmail For Breakfast was a stronger story, better written and easily conjured images of square jawed heroes in trilby hats punching it out with the bad guys.

Slipped into the back of Blackmail For Breakfast I found another typed story, The Night Of Screaming Terror. It was shorter than any of the others, written a year later than Blackmail For Breakfast in 1955 and had, in my mind, two distinctive features. First, it was far and away the best written of the stories. And second, it was my Dad’s one and only foray into the world of horror! And back then, as now, horror was one of my favourite genres (alongside Science Fiction). I loved this story.

In 2000, at 70 years old, my Dad suddenly decided to write another story, the first, I believe, since The Night Of Screaming Terror in 1955. It was a story about the Second World War, private detectives, spies, stolen plans and Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain. It was also the longest thing he had ever written, short novel length.

In 2013 I managed to persuade him to let me release that book, The Ring Of Treachery, as an ebook and paperback through Amazon.

Also in 2013 I decided to have a go at editing, revising and rewriting those old stories I had enjoyed all those years ago. I wanted to keep the original story and as much of the original writing as I could. Above all, it was very important to me that I retained the style of the story, regardless of who had written the actual words. This book is the result of that work.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed working on them.

Neil Davies

10 August 2013

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.