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Excerpt From 'Bodies in the Clearing'

Chapter One



George Peters was having a bad day. Every time that he tried to reconcile himself to what had just happened, he came up against a blank wall. As far as he was prepared to admit, he had just been fired for no reason at all. By nature, he was not the confrontational type, but this was simply too much, so he stood up, politely informed his boss that he would see him at an industrial tribunal, and walked out. The last thing that he saw as he left the office was his boss reaching for the telephone. It only took ten to fifteen minutes to empty his desk, bid farewell to his erstwhile colleagues, and walk out of the door.

The look that he got from the two girls in reception was quite unnerving, but he doubted whether they had anything to do with his situation. They really would not have the nerve. The taller of the two girls, smiled and gave an exaggerated wave, but the other just held up two fingers.

He pushed through the revolving doors that fronted this quite prestigious office block, and stood still for a few minutes, angry and quite confused at what to do next. He had worked here since he left school eight years ago, and never having been unemployed had no idea where he was going to get another job, particularly one that provided the same opportunities that this one had. He knew that he had threatened them with an employment tribunal, but he didn’t have any idea where to go for that either.

He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. It was time to do what he always did in uncertain situations, and that was to ring his girlfriend of three years, but now his fiancé; Marissa Kent. She would know, as she always did, what he should do next. He keyed in her number, and lifted the phone to his ear. He didn’t see, or hear, the car that mounted the kerb behind him, and never even felt the impact that took his life.




I was in my office, which tended to be a rare occurrence these days, when the big screen on the wall sprang into life to reveal a youngish, petite, but very pretty redhead coming up the stairs toward our entrance. She looked harmless enough, so I hit the door release, and stood up to welcome her as she entered.

“Good morning,” I said, offering my hand, “I’m Margaret Dexxman. How can I help you?”

As I said, my name is Margaret Dexxman, but all my friends know me as Maggie or Mags. It wasn’t always Dexxman, but was Margaret French up until Larry Dexxman and his wife Penny had adopted me just after my sixteenth birthday. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, with me celebrating my twenty-seventh birthday last August. Larry is still alive and at eighty six is enjoying his retirement with the love of his life Penny, and sixteen year old Tanny. His mind is still as sharp as it always was, but his physical health leaves a lot to be desired. Denise, Lily, and I really enjoy our Sunday lunches with him, and all of us owe him so much that we will continue doing it for as long as he is able to appreciate it.

Her handclasp was firm, but even so I could see that she was nervous and deeply upset. I gave her an intense ‘once over’ as we stood fact to face, noticing her virtually perfect figure, and the confident way that she held herself. She really was quite delicious, and if I was not, as I believed I was, completely heterosexual, I could be really tempted.

“Please sit down,” I said, dismissing my uncharacteristic lewd thoughts, and directing her to the office sofa.

“Thank you,” her voice faltered, but I could still feel a shiver up my spine as she spoke, “My name is Marissa Kent.”

“What can I do for you Marissa?” I asked.

“I’m looking for a Private Detective,” she glanced around the room.

“That would be me,” I said, pointing to several certificates that adorned the wall.

I had spent the first four years after Larry had retired, taking various courses to comply with the new rules governing Private Detectives, passing most of them fairly easily. My most prized though, were those extra ones, dealing with firearms and self-defence that I had managed to squeeze in whenever I had some free time. It was true that I didn’t possess a gun, mainly because the law in the UK made it illegal, but as the bad guys were not as law abiding as me, I now knew which end was which, should the need arise. The added bonus was that I also knew at least seventeen ways to disable someone.

“Oh sorry,” she smiled. It was a bleak smile, but at least it was a smile, “I was expecting someone much older.”

I waited.

“My boyfriend was killed a couple of weeks ago, outside of his office.” she said, “He was calling me, just as a car mounted the kerb, and hit him, killing him outright.”

“From your demeanour, I get the feeling that you think something was fishy about it?”

“I do,” she said firmly, “the Police investigated, and told me that the car had been stolen no more than five minutes before the incident. They say that the most likely cause was a blowout in one of its front tyres, causing the car to swerve and mount the kerb. What makes it suspicious to me is that they never found the driver.”

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