Work in Progress
Although I frequently decide to concentrate only on one book at a time, I inevitably find myself with more ideas than I need, so end up with several works in progress. At the moment, I’m busy with four new books:
The Watson Letters – Vol 5: Murder on Mystery Island
The fifth volume in my Watson Letters series begins with the tenacious duo meeting Doctor Edward Armstrong, who has an invitation to a mysterious island:
It has been some months since my last encounter with my friend and colleague Sherlock Holmes and even longer since we were involved in a case of any significance. Shortly after the adventure related in my story ‘Revenge of the Hooded Claw’, the Great Detective set off for Burma on the trail of arch-villain Doctor Fu Manchu. Though I had urged him to allow me to accompany him, he was adamant I should remain in Londen with a view to ‘being my ears and eyes’ in his absence.
Initially, I interpreted this as a snub, and spent several weeks bemoaning the fact that my worth must be as relevant to him as a dead horse, since he rarely gave praise or complemented me on my intuition. However, after prompt replies to my weekly letters, I realised he did value my contributions but had considered my safety (and that of my wife’s) as paramount in his investigation.
Having dispatched my latest missive last Friday, I was somewhat surprised to receive a telegram from Holmes this morning summoning me to Baker Street. It seems he’d returned to the metropolis and wished to see me as a matter of some urgency.
Mrs Hudson caught me in a bear hug at the front door, then showed me upstairs with her usual eagerness, though all the while uttering remarks relating how that, in her tenant’s absence, I had simply ‘not bovvered’ with her, or considered that she might like ‘a bit ov male company ov a dark and dreary night’.
Issuing a few compliments on her appearance and the warmth of her welcome, I was heartened to see her wizened face light up once again. She left me at the door with the promise of heating up a trayful of muffins and a pot of hot chocolate.
“Ah, Watson,” said my companion as I entered the sitting room. “Glad you could make it.”
Holmes was seated in his usual armchair by the fire, and waving me into my former pew opposite, gestured to the corner of the room to which, until that moment, I had not paid any attention. Making myself comfortable, I looked over and for the first time discerned the figure of a man sitting in shadow. His hat was pulled over his eyes and a dark suit did nothing to illuminate his complexion.
Glancing at Holmes, I said, “A visitor?”
Holmes nodded and resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, steepled his fingers. “Doctor Watson, I should like you to meet a fellow medical man, Doctor Eddie Armstrong. In a moment I should be obliged if you would utilise your skills and examine him, but for now please take a look at this.” Reaching up to the mantelshelf, he took down a piece of white card and passed it across to me.
The Phantom of Fiddler’s Lane
Book 3 in my middle grade Christie McKinnon Adventure series, finds young Christie targeted by an old enemy:
“Gracie. Come away.” The boy beckons to the girl, but her eyes are still fixed on the man at the corner, or rather, the strange creature dancing around on top of the music box.
She watches the man’s grimy fingers fluttering over the keyboard, his feet pumping away on pedals underneath the contraption. Grinning up at him, she holds a hand out to the monkey.
“Careful lassie, he’ll hae your fingers off.” The man smiles, his mouth a veritable graveyard of blackened teeth.
“Oh,” she says, withdrawing her hand sharply.
Robbie trudges back up the lane. “Come on, now,” he says, taking her sleeve. “We’ll get a row off Ma if we’re late.” He watches as the monkey holds out its tiny hat towards them.
“Can we no give him a penny, Robbie?”
He glances at the old man and a wave of guilt washes over him. “Next time, maybe. Now come away, will you?” He smiles at the man, but the musician’s happy face has gone.
The girl finally takes her brother’s hand. “Fine, but we’ve tae come again tomorrow.”
“Aye, maybe,” he says, pulling her away from the busy street and down the alley towards home. The snow begins to fall as the two children hurry away, their coats pulled tight against the cold.
The man in the black cap steps out of the shop doorway opposite and crosses the street. He watches the animal’s antics for a moment, then digging into his pocket, holds out a coin. The creature stops jumping around and reaches towards him.
“A fair exchange – a ha’penny for a bit of entertainment.”
The old man stops pumping the pedals and lifts his hat. “Most grateful, I’m sure.” His tired eyes flick across the stranger’s face, but there’s something in the newcomer’s expression that prompts him to drop his gaze. Nudging the monkey, he takes the coin from its leather pouch and drops it into a bag tied to the musicbox. The animal screeches and performs a miniature bow, while its master resumes pedalling, grateful to turn his attention back to his task. He begins the tune again with renewed vigour.
Terry McManus gives a sullen nod, digs his hands into his pockets and moves off down the lane, following the two children. With any luck, they’ll be the perfect bait to lure that interferin wee lassie Christie McKinnon into his trap. And this time, she’ll no be gettin away so easily.
The Curse of Calico Jack
The second book in my middle grade Skeleton Cove Horror series, is a new mystery for Jeff and Suzi Q:
Something cold and wet hit the back of my neck.
I looked up, but there was nothing to see, only never-ending blackness. An icy draught blew across my face making me wince.
Blinking, I shook my head. Was this a dream? Was I in the middle of some outlandish nightmare? Struggling to focus my thoughts, the last thing I could remember was the party. But this was no celebration…
The voice was so unexpected, it made me jump and a sudden pain shot up my leg. The course surface of whatever I was sitting on had scraped my ankle. It must be a rock, or a ledge of some sort, I thought, moving my legs away from the cold surface of the stone.
“Suzi?” I whispered. “That you?”
Another drop of water landed on the back of my neck, prompting me to lean sideways out of its line of fire.
“Here,” said Suzi, a tremble in her throat.
Turning my head, I looked in the direction her voice seemed to have come from. “Where?”
A movement close by, then she grunted, and I felt her arm touch mine.
“Thought we must be dead,” she said, with a grim laugh.
Blinking again, I moved my head around, peering into the darkness, but it was impossible to make out any detail of our surroundings.
“Where are we?” I said, noting how the words echoed back at me. “A cave, d’you think?”
Suzi leaned against me and I made to reach out to her. It was only then I realised my arms were held fast at my sides.
“What?” I said, looking towards her.
Turning, I saw it in the far distance – a blurry glow, waving from side to side. Narrowing my eyes, I stared, striving to make out details, a shape, anything, but all I could see was the dim light, moving ever closer. Unable to drag my eyes away, I watched as the figure of a man came into focus. Talking long deliberate steps, he walked slowly towards us through the darkness. One arm hung at his side swinging a lantern, while in the other, a gnarled fist grasped something long and silvery that glinted in the half light. My gaze slid up to his face and the two dark holes that were his eyes stared dully back at me.
“It’s him,” Suzi murmured. “He’s coming back. And he’s got a knife – a really big knife.”