Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Cherringham: Dead in the Water An exclusive extract

Dead in the Water is the first full-length novel set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, featuring the unlikely sleuthing duo Sarah Edwards, an English web designer, and Jack Brennan, American ex-cop. The last episode, A Death in the Family, saw Jack rush back to the US to be with his family, leaving Sarah behind…

On the night of the school prom, popular teacher Josh Owens is found dead in the Thames in a drug-related accident. At first, it seems to be another sign that Cherringham High is spiralling out of control but the new head isn’t so sure, and quietly calls in local sleuth Sarah Edwards. Sarah is initially reluctant to take on the case, especially without Jack. But with the possibility of serious drug dealing at her daughter’s school, she feels compelled to get involved. However, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to Josh’s death than meets the eye, and that Sarah’s own life could be in danger. Solving crimes just isn’t the same without Jack…
“That your lot, Maddie?” said Billy Leeper, sliding two pints of lager across the bar, shouting to be
heard over the music and noisy crowd.
Maddie looked down at the tray of drinks she’d just ordered.
A big round – and now she realised she’d forgotten to order her own drink.
“Sorry, Billy – one more glass of white wine, please. Any old thing will do – long as it’s nice and
She watched the barkeeper disappear down to the other end of the bar, then looked around.
The Ploughman’s was as packed as she’d ever seen it. Cherringham’s favourite local pub – not as posh as the Angel farther up on the High Street, but still the go-to place for any village event.
And tonight, there was more than just the usual Friday night crowd.
A mob of her fellow teachers had come down after the prom for a well-deserved pint, and some of the now-departing pupils were happy to drink with them. She recognised a few of the boys and girls in their smart suits and gowns, knocking back drinks as if they did it every weekend.
Well, she thought, they probably do.
“Here you go,” said Billy, adding a glass of white wine to the tray. “On the tab?”
“Thanks, Billy.”
She picked up the tray and turned to go.
“They’re all eighteen, I’m assuming?” said Billy, nodding towards the students dotted around the
“Oh, I’m sure they are,” said Maddie, not at all sure, but moving off quickly towards the tables at
the rear of the pub.
On the way, she passed a crowded table by the dartboard and spotted a few of the lower sixth formers, standing with pints and bottles in their hands. Now, this lot definitely weren’t eighteen.
Should she say something?
She could see Callum Brady in the group. And Liam Norris and Jake Pawson.
The Usual Suspects, as they were known up at the school.
In T-shirts and jeans, looking aggressive even just standing there and drinking.
And liable to cause trouble if she told Billy they were underage.
They certainly did plenty of that at school.
Sooner they were gone… the better.
Jake caught her eye – and the whole group stopped talking and turned to look at her.
The look – a challenge.
As if to say: go on then; just try to get us thrown out.
If you got the balls.
She turned away and carried on walking with her tray of drinks to the back of the pub.
Dammit, she thought, what kind of coward am I?
But when she got to the back room of the pub, she put the encounter with the dartboard crowd to the back of her mind.
In the time she’d been gone, her group had grown even bigger. Someone had shoved three tables together. Now there must be nearly twenty – teachers and students both – all laughing, joking, telling stories. All glad the year was over: summer, university, the future… beckoning.
She lowered the tray onto the nearest table and everybody cheered and grabbed their drinks.
She picked up her white wine and waved to Tim sitting at the middle of the table, talking to one of
his star English pupils – or at least, listening to his tipsy rambling.
He gave her a long-suffering smile and mouthed “sorry”.
The boy had taken her seat. She smiled back and mouthed back – “no problem”.
“Here you go, Maddie,” came a voice from the end of the table.
She turned around – it was Josh Owen. A teacher the kids definitely adored.
A free seat next to him.
Should she?
With a quick glance at Tim, she skirted a group of locals, hemmed in by students, and threaded
her way round to the other end of the large table.
“I could say I saved it for you, but that would be lying,” said Josh.
“Well, you certainly know how to flatter a girl. So, how did you like your first Cherringham prom?”
“Good fun, hmm?” said Josh. “I had some great students in that year – sorry to see them go. Nice kids.”
“If only they were all nice.”
“Goes with the territory.”
Maddie took a sip of her wine.
“You talk to the new head?”
“Not tonight,” said Josh quietly. “Not the right time.”
“But you are applying for the deputy job?”
“You bet. There’s a lot needs changing – and from what I’ve heard so far, I like her plans.”
“I just hope I’m part of them,” said Maddie.
“You will be – if I’ve got anything to do with it.”
She laughed.
“Hark at you, deputy head, sir, hiring and firing already.”
“You bet. Mind how you behave, Ms. Brookes.”
“Always…” she said, laughing.
She liked teasing Josh, playing with him. He had a sparkle, as if he really enjoyed life.
She couldn’t help but look down the table at Tim, still involved in a long, deep conversation.
Her boyfriend.
How she hated that word. God, she was nearly thirty.
Maybe I should start calling him my partner? But do I even want that?
Though not official yet…
Someone brought another tray of drinks over and everyone starting grabbing their refreshed pints and glasses.
As she stared – Tim looked over at her.
He smiled.
She smiled back.
And had a thought… what if Tim wasn’t here?
Then the seat next to Tim – empty.
With a nod from Tim, she sailed away from Josh.
“There you are!” Tim said. “I was just saying that I want to do some real camping trips this summer! Get some good long walks in. Proper treks – you know?”
She nodded. She noticed Tim looking at her.
“How does that sound to you?”
A smile. “Yes. Shake off the school year. Sounds great…”
Tim smiled at that, then turned back to the group.
Out of the corner of her eye she was aware of Josh getting up from the other end of the table.
He looked – for a moment – confused. She watched him head into the front bar and thought… Strange…
But then she too got lost in the excited talk of summer plans, the precious time away from kids
and school…

The first full length Cherringham novella, Dead in the Water by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards is published 10th October by Bastei Entertainment, price £6.49 in eBook

The latest episode, Cherringham: A Death in the Family is free until 17th October: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cherringham-Death-Family-Cosy-Crime-ebook/dp/B0191RZEXU

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