Extract from The Goddess and The Grifter (A Bentley Novel) Chapters 8-12

                              

                                                                              8

 

Aurora had a gruelling gymnastic and boxercise session and had built up quite a sweat. She decided to reward herself with a long soak in the bath. That was the handy thing about having a dance and exercise studio where you lived; the work came to you. As the bath was running, Aurora grabbed herself a bottle of her favourite wine, Merlot, along with a glass and took it along with her to the bathroom. She unzipped and slipped out of her all in one exercise gear. Her slender body was quite tender and supple. She felt she needed to work on those abs a bit more although she had nothing to be ashamed about body wise. Once her bath was run Aurora stepped into her bath filled with bubbles, just how she liked it and started to unwind.

After a few minutes, Aurora’s mobile phone went. It was Joe North and he had a job for her to do.

‘Aurora, I’ve got someone who I want you to take out for me. Would you                                  mind?’

‘Well, I’ve just got in the bath but I suppose I could do it when I’m done.                                  Who is it?’

‘Huh, I wish I was in there with you honey. It’s a guy called Greg Chandler.                            I’ll send yer the details of him but he’s not a nice guy.’

‘See you’re still giving me all the good work Joe?’

‘I want you to take care of him personally because I know you can get the                              job done. Aurora?’

‘Yeah Joe?’

‘Be careful around this guy. He’s a bastard.’

‘You know I can handle myself.’

‘I still worry about you. It’s a dangerous business’

‘I know. That’s really sweet.’

‘Listen, I’ll treat you to dinner tomorrow night. Arrangini’s around 8?’

‘That sounds great I’ll see you then. Love you!’

‘Love you too Aurora.’

With the call finished. Aurora stuck her head underneath the surface. So much for a cosy night in!

 

***

 

                                                                    9

 

 

Aurora was standing in the shadows by the club Electric Blue. She was waiting for the mark. Electric Blue was Greg Chandler’s regular Friday night out. He would normally go with a couple of his friends to sink a few drinks, chat up a few women and head off home with a kebab.

Aurora was wearing black leggings tucked into knee length black boots and a black leather jacket over a purple sequin top. This helped her to look inconspicuous. This was going to be a job that she was going to enjoy.  Gary Chandler regularly abused women hence why he didn’t have any long term partners. He was always a bit ‘hands on’ with them whether they wanted the attention or not. He short changed Joe North on a cocaine deal. Joe may not be the most scrupulous person in the world but when it came to deals he took a gentleman’s handshake to be as good as their bond. Nobody screwed Joe out of a deal and lived to tell the tale. Aurora was also going to enjoy it primarily because she got a night out from it. Being a professional assassin was not akin to a partying lifestyle but this was a chance to let her fiery red hair down.

Greg Chandler was on his way. He was walking up the street with his two friends and joined the queue getting into the club. Aurora waited a few minutes before joining the queue herself. She didn’t want to be noticed by him just yet. She had a couple of hours yet to make his acquaintance. Biding her time was going to make the kill all the more enjoyable.

When Aurora got into Electric Blue, she dumped her jacket in the cloakroom. Underneath, she was wearing a pink top which had leatherette sleeves. She made her way towards the bar area for a spot of Dutch courage. The club was packed as always. Aurora ordered a chilli vodka shot. It was going to be the only drink she was paying for so she made it a cheap one. She then made her way towards the dance floor. She spotted Chandler with his friends but tried to make it look as if she hadn’t noticed him but he definitely had.

Aurora started to dance sensually. You could tell that she did this sort of thing for a living. Getting in some personal time before Chandler would invade her space. She loved to dance. It would calm down Aurora before she had to encounter the mark. Chandler stood there mesmerised. He hadn’t seen her in the club before. He would have remembered somebody as sexy as that. Chandler decided to chance his arm and go over and dance with Aurora.

The two of them came face to face on the dance floor. Aurora gave the impression that she was enjoying the attention from Chandler. This was the performer in her. She moved slowly up and down in front of Chandler greeted with a smile on his face. She then put her arms around Chandler and kissed him. Aurora thought this was vile but the show must go on. She started to walk away and this had the desired effect. Chandler moved in front of her to block her route of the dance floor.

‘Hey darling, you don’t get away from me that easily.’

‘Who says I was going away? I was just checking you were interested

in me rather than just flirting.’

‘Oh I’m definitely interested!’ said Chandler enthusiastically. ‘You’re

beautiful.’

‘Thanks’ replied Aurora ‘I’m always on the lookout for a dance

partner.’

‘Then I’m asking.’

Aurora started dancing towards Chandler. She then turned around and cavorted in front of him, wiggling her backside half way back up. She turned her head and smiled at him to give the show of mutual pleasure. Aurora turned round to face him again and started enticing him to follow her before continuing to dance with him. Chandler had well and truly taken the bait.

Chandler and Aurora left the dance floor and went over to the bar. He put his arm around her waist which made her more than a tad uncomfortable but she hid it well. The barman went to take his order.

‘I’ll have what the lady is having.’

‘I don’t accept drinks from strangers.’

‘I’m Greg and your name is?’

‘Phoebe, hence the tattoo.’

‘It’s beautiful. Almost as beautiful as you.’

‘Aww, thank you.’

‘Now, we’re not strangers, what are you having?’

‘Ok, a steamboat please.’

‘I’ve never had one of those before.’

‘It’s like me. The best and most interesting parts of me are below the

surface.’

Aurora started walking her fingers up and down his Chandlers shirt which was met with a smile.

‘I’d like to get to meet your interesting parts’ Chandler said.

‘Carry on the way you’re going’ replied Aurora ‘and you might just

have a chance.’

‘I like the sound of that.’

‘I thought you might.’

Chandler then led Aurora back to the dance floor. This time round, they were much more intimate with each other. They gave each other a passionate kiss whilst still dancing. He started caressing her back and moved his hand down to get a firm hold of her backside. Aurora’s mind started to wander back towards her bottle of Merlot that she had to rush for this encounter and her dinner with Joe the next day. Either of these filled her with much more warm and excitement than what she was going through right now. This was a means to an end. She tried to pretend that Chandler was Joe. This helped make the intimacy much more bearable.

At the end of the night Chandler and Aurora said goodbye to Chandler’s friends and left in a taxi together. They went back to Chandler’s place. It was a rather pleasing to look at. He must have made a fair amount with his wheeling and dealing especially if he ripped off all his clients like he did with Joe.

Once they got inside the house, Chandler and Aurora started getting intimate again. They made their way towards the living. The bedroom was too far and Aurora wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. She took off Chandler’s jacket and tie whilst he took off Aurora’s jacket. Chandler started to unbutton his shirt but Aurora stopped him.

‘I’ll help you with that in a moment.’ She said

Aurora got Chandler to lie down and she kneeled down on top of him. She then started to kiss him on the lips before starting to move down his body whilst unbuttoning the rest of his shirt. Aurora moved back up to his face and repeated the action only this time round, she was using her hands as well. This was having a relaxing effect on Chandler, who was very much enjoying the whole experience.

Suddenly, Aurora flung her legs around Chandler’s lower abdomen and locked them together. This took him very much by surprise. There was a new found intensity in her eyes. The couple, who had been playfully intimate only moments ago, were now in the middle of a pseudo sexual move. However, it seemed that only one of them was enjoying it. Before Chandler could react to what was going on, Aurora rolled them both over and was starting applying extra pressure on his lungs. She seemed to be having something like an orgasm whilst his screams were more like those of agony. Chandler’s rib cracked and was finding it harder and harder to breath. A short time later, he was dead and Aurora decided to release the hold. She stood up and placed her foot on his chest, applying pressure whilst she was doing it. Aurora bent over Chandler with a smile on her face.

‘The pleasure was all mine darling. Hope you had a cracking time too.’

Aurora had a little laugh to herself, grabbed her jacket and left. She had a bottle of unfinished Merlot waiting for her back home.

 

***

 

                                                                         10

 

Bentley and Pinkney were having breakfast together at their favourite café when they were called to the scene.  Bentley was mildly upset because he had ordered a full English and ended up having to leave half of it. Pinkney had just had a bacon sandwich with a glass of orange juice. She didn’t eat much normally for breakfast but it was a good chance for her and Bentley to usually catch up with each other before the working day.

When they reached the scene, Delaney was already there. He had started searching for clues inside Greg Chandler’s house as to who killed him. Delaney acknowledged Bentley and Pinkney’s arrival at the scene with a sarcastic welcome.

‘Sorry to have disturbed you from your weekly love in but we got a call to here from the housekeeper who discovered the body. Yes, in the north west of England, a housekeeper. I know but she discovered the body around 8 this morning.’

‘Who is it?’ asked Bentley.

‘His name is Greg Chandler. He was a local businessman. We can’t immediately tell what killed him. We’d have to wait for the coroner’s report for that. No outward clues.’

‘Could it have been natural causes, they do happen?’ asked Pinkney.

‘It could have been but the tone in and around the eyeballs show that it was a violent death rather than a heart attack or something.’ replied Delaney.

‘Fair enough. Did any of the neighbours or passers-by notice anything?’ asked Bentley.

‘Not from what we could gather.’ replied Delaney. ‘Without a definitive time of death, we’re only guessing when he died but nobody has stepped forward with any useful information.’

‘Okay. I’ll get to work on that. Sarah, can you please put the feelers out to see if anybody in the area notice anything suspicious last night even if they thought it was a UFO.’

‘Will do Nick.’

Bentley got to the coroner’s office a short while later. He was quite astonished to see something of a smug grin on both the faces of Christian Morris and Dr Fiona Miles. Bentley felt enticed to ask.

‘What’s with your faces?’ Bentley asked.

‘We know how he died.’ said Morris.

‘I gathered that you buzzed me.’

‘I know.’ said Miles.

Both the coroner and his assistant started giggling. Bentley was getting a little impatient with their childish behaviour.

‘Well spit it out!’

‘He was crushed to death.’ said Morris.

‘Crushed to death? Are you being serious?’

‘Absolutely.’ replied Miles. ‘You can tell from marks by his lower chest and abdomen that he was beaten up and unable to breathe.’

‘Do you know how this happened?’

‘We’re not sure if it was a kinky sex game that went wrong or a violent attack that went right.’ replied Morris.

‘Which do you think is most likely?’

‘The injuries including a couple of broken ribs, one punctured his left lung, show the signs of a brutal beating.  However, it could just be that they were a little too aggressive in acting out a move of the Karma Sutra.’ replied Miles.

‘Time of death?’

‘You’re looking at just turned 3 in the morning given the bruising and how blood shod the victim’s eyes still are.’ replied Miles

‘So there is no way of proving either way?’

‘You could put it under ‘suspicious deaths’ certainly because of how he died but like I said it would be tough to prove he was murdered.’ replied Morris.

‘It’s something I can only get a conviction on through a confession?’

‘Precisely.’

‘Thanks anyway.’

Bentley was feeling low. He had two dead bodies of businessmen that may or may not have been connected.  What he needed was a lucky break or inspiration from somewhere.

Bentley was on his way out of the crime lab when he saw Mischa Henry coming in the opposite direction. She had just come back from a separate crime scene and was still wearing her light blue coverall.

‘Hi Nick. Another dead body?’ asked Mischa.

‘Yeah. I called in to see Christian and the Doc about Greg Chandler. The body that came in this morning.’ replied Bentley.

‘Ah, the kinky sex victim.’

‘How did you know about that?’

‘It’s a small office and I’m a pathologist.’

‘True.’

‘Actually, Fiona wanted me to have a look at some scrapings under the victim’s fingernails.’

‘Did it come up with anything?’

‘Unfortunately not. There were only traces under the nails. Not enough to come up with anything solid.’

‘Shoot. It’s like trying to cross a river, you can see a bridge to get across but you can’t use it. It’s so frustrating.’

‘Aww. I’m sure it’s only a temporary setback.’

‘Hope so. Do you fancy a drink?’

‘Nick, it’s only 2 in the afternoon.’

‘I know but it helps inspire me. I would normally ask Sarah or Danny but they’re busy at the moment. What do you say?’

‘Ok. I’ll join you but I haven’t had anything to eat today so I can’t be drinking on an empty stomach.’

‘Sure we can grab a bite to eat first and go for a couple of drinks.’

‘Ok. I’ll need to get changed first but I can meet you over there say in about half an hour?’

‘Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you over there.’

 

***

 

 

                                                                        11

 

Bentley and Mischa met each other at The Fly in the Loaf. Mischa was wearing a pair of black jeans, sandals and a pink top. They each ordered something to eat. Bentley ordered a Cumberland Sausage Baguette with a side order of chips while Mischa had a Cajun Chicken Sandwich with a salad bowl. They had a cup of coffee before they would move on to the heavier stuff. Bentley was eating his with gusto.

‘Umm, I do love the food here. Great quality pub grub!’ he said.

‘That’s true. I’ll let you off for dragging me out of the lab.’ mentioned Mischa.

‘It’s good to get away from the main office now and again for a lunch time. Whilst I like the canteen it’s still on site.’

‘I know what you mean.’

‘Besides I needed space to think. Alternative surroundings are always good.’

‘It’s good to see you outside the office too. It’s all work, work, and work in there.’

‘You’re right. I need to be a tad more sociable.’

After they finished their meals, they went and sat over by the bar to order some drinks. Bentley ordered a Jack Daniels and coke whilst Mischa thought she would join him on the shorts with a Southern Comfort and Lemonade although normally she was a glass of wine sort of girl. The two started to get onto matters of the case.

‘Has the drink got your creative juices flowing?’ asked Mischa.

‘Yes, I think it has. I think we are looking for female.’

‘Who do you think it is?’

‘Her name is Aurora Nightingale. She is a freelance assassin who appears now to be working for a local businessman called Joe North.’

‘What makes you think that?’

‘Well, she is known to be North’s main squeeze even though he is still married to his wife. Plus she is the only one of his associates who is female. This would also explain the red hair at the first crime scene, the kinky end at the second crime scene and why two men who had dealings with North are now dead.’

‘I think you’re on to something but how are you going to prove it?’

‘You always have to spoil things don’t you.’

‘Hey, I just know what the courts are going to say if we go in with half-baked theories and minimal, ambiguous evidence. I’m going to need to present an argument that a jury would understand rather than me trying to leave them to fill in the blanks.’

‘You’re right though.’

‘It’s not all bad for you though. At least you’ve got an idea as to who it is and as to why they did it.’

‘I have with Hussain but not with Chandler.’

‘What do you think was the reason behind Hussain’s murder?’

‘Well Hussain’s friends get the impression that there was tension between North and Hussain over their dealings with each other. There was mistrust on both sides it would seem.’

‘But it looked like it had been resolved right? They were still going ahead with the deal.’

‘Exactly. North may have kept the appointment but never intended to show up. He wanted to teach Hussain a lesson. It may have been the same with Chandler as well.’

‘Could be. I’ll keep my ear to the ground in case anything else turns up.’

Bentley and Mischa finished discussing the case. Bentley tried to persuade Mischa to have a few shots before they left. Mischa was persuaded to have an apple sour whilst Bentley chose vodka. They had a shot of each. Mischa was knocked a bit sideways by it as she wasn’t used to drinking this early in the day but it meant that things were a bit more relaxed between the two of them rather than being all work related.

Bentley and Mischa shared a cab back to the station as they were not in a fit state to drive. Bentley was grateful for Mischa coming with him to the pub as he felt it helped to reinvigorate the case.

‘Thanks for humouring me today.’ said Bentley.

‘It’s been a pleasure.’ said Mischa. ‘I got out of the office during the day for something other than going to a crime scene and I got to see a different side to you.’

‘I thought we got on pretty well?’

‘We do Nick. I just mean you were much more laid back and fun.’

‘I see. The job does make me a bit too serious at times.’

‘Next time I’ll treat you to a bottle of vino.’

‘I’ll hold you to that.’

Bentley went to his office. He had quite a lot to mull over. He gave Pinkney a call to check if there was any more information that came in from their house to house enquiries. Pinkney did mention from talking to Chandler’s friends that he left for home from a nightclub on the night of his murder with a red headed woman. However, they said that Chandler had introduced her to them as Phoebe.

Bentley was left to wonder was this in fact Aurora Nightingale under a pseudonym or somebody trying to frame her. One thing was for sure; Bentley had his work cut out for him on this case. He had plenty to consider with limited time to do it in as the killer could yet strike again.

 

***

 

                             

                                                                12

 

Aurora was swimming at her local swimming pool. Swimming was very therapeutic to her. She was getting exercise but it seemed the least physical of the activities that she got up to. After she had done a few laps, she spotted a familiar face up in the seating area. It was her mother. Aurora got out of the pool. She was wearing a shiny, one piece blue bathing suit with a deep scoop neck and back.

Aurora wandered over to the part of the seating area where her mother was with a smile on her face. She waved to her.

‘Hi mum!’

‘Hello darling, how are you?’

‘Great thanks. I was hoping to catch you here. You still swim on a Saturday then?’

‘Things are less hectic on a Saturday so it’s a good time to come.’

‘Yes of course. I just need to go in the Jacuzzi first and get changed. Give me about 15 minutes – half an hour?’

‘That’s fine sweetheart. I’ll meet you in the café.’

‘Okay doke.’

Aurora needed to use the Jacuzzi because her body was still sore from her physical confrontation with Chandler. That’s why she preferred using a sniper rifle but she felt that someone like Chandler needed the personal touch. She was paying for it now though. A man got into the Jacuzzi with Aurora and was starting small talk with her. She often got chatted up by men in the Jacuzzi. She did have a fine body and was a good looking woman. That was why she took to wearing a ring on her wedding finger. Aurora flashed it at the man and this made him shrink.

After she had finished in the Jacuzzi, Aurora had a shower, got changed and went to meet her mother. Her hair was still quite wet so she wore it down for it to dry. She was wearing a crimson hoody with jeans and a pair of black converse. She carried her wet items in a blue backpack.  She spotted her mother and suggested that she would buy lunch.

Aurora and her mother each had a chicken salad and a cup of tea. Shona Nightingale and her daughter didn’t see each other much these days but they still got on well. When Aurora returned home from a young offender’s institution after four years, things changed. Shona and her husband, Fraser, found it difficult to cope with Aurora being reintegrated into their lives. After just six months, Aurora left home for good. They met for family get togethers at Christmas and birthdays but little besides that. When they met, she was civil to her father but they didn’t really talk.

After exchanging pleasantries, Shona and Aurora got down to the reason that they were both here; her parents were missing her.

‘You’re father is missing you Aurora, probably more than I am.’

‘Mum, if he really missed me he would be down here with you.’

‘Believe me, if he could, then he would be.’

‘What do you mean?’

Shona then produced a photograph of a little baby. It was an early picture of Aurora not long after she was born. Aurora put her hand over her mouth and tears welled up in her eyes. She looked so innocent then. All the hopes and fears that awaited her then were an undiscovered country. Aurora wanted to say sorry to the younger version of her but the past was the past.

‘We were so proud the day you were born sweetheart. You had brought a light into our lives that wasn’t there before. Hence that’s why we named you Aurora.’

‘I was so innocent and perfect back then.’

‘You still are Aurora.’

‘No I’m not mum. I’m far from perfect.’

‘We all make mistakes but it doesn’t mean we stop loving each other.’

‘I don’t want to be a stranger anymore.’

‘You’re father is dying Aurora.’

‘Dying? Why, what’s wrong with him?’

‘He has lung cancer. Doctors don’t think he has got long left.’

‘I don’t know if I can…’

‘Please Aurora; this could be your last chance. You would really regret this.’

‘Okay, I will come and see him.’

Shona was pleased with this. They departed giving each other a warm embrace. Aurora was happy to be on good terms with her mum again.

‘You don’t have to be a stranger any more Aurora.’

‘I know mum. I know.’

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Extract from The Goddess and The Grifter (A Bentley Novel) Chapters 3 – 7

                                                                           3

 

A Street dancing class was taking place in a house just off the main road. Six students were being taught a routine by a female instructor named Aurora Nightingale. She was around her mid 20’s, just under six feet tall with long red hair in a ponytail and brown eyes. She was wearing a purple tracksuit. She was teaching them how to dance with confidence in this lesson, something much required in that environment.

Aurora’s students were transfixed. They were hanging on her every word and were closely watching everything that she was doing. She danced with such passion that it was hard for them to take their eyes of her. It was now their turn. Aurora went round each of the students, making sure their movements were correct. She was impressed by how they had picked up the tips and how well they executed the dance she had so carefully choreographed.

At the end of the lesson, the students began to leave whilst Aurora was giving herself a rub down with a towel. Two men walked into the room both wearing similar outfits: dark jackets, black jeans and shoes. Aurora recognised both men. They were associates of her boyfriend, Joe North; Dean Burrows and Wayne Boxhall. She seemed rather jovial when she came over to meet them.

‘Morning gentlemen and what can I do for you on this fine morning?’

‘Joe wanted us to give you a message.’ said Burrows

‘Oh right, what’s that then?’

‘He’s heard about your hit on Tariq Hussain.’ said Boxhall.  ‘He wants to                                  know if you would be interested in working for him instead?’

Aurora was wondering when this day would arrive. The whole point of asking for Joe to give Aurora her own business was to make her own money and not rely on him all the time. Doing freelance hits meant she could start to pay Joe back instead of being in his debt.

‘What makes him think I would be interested?’

‘He knows you’re good.’ said Burrows ‘He would rather pay someone he can trust thause a hired gun.’

‘I see.’

‘Plus he says that he will pay you well.’ added Boxhall.

It was intriguing. Joe wouldn’t rip Aurora off. After all, she was an assassin of some repute and who would come after him and succeed in getting her own back if he tried it. In return, Joe would have someone who was reliable and he could trust as his go-to guy. Burrows and Boxhall were good but clumsy in comparison. Aurora was clean and slick with her hits.

‘Ok, I’ll do it’

‘He’ll let you know when he needs you.’ said Burrows.

‘Yeah, sure.’

‘By the way.’ said Boxhall ‘Joe also asked us to give you this.’

Boxhall handed Aurora a gift wrapped box. It had a blue ribbon with a bow of the same colour as a centre piece.  She opened the box. It contained a beautiful one shoulder peacock feather print evening dress. Aurora had to put her hand over her mouth. She was touched by not only how great it looked but Joe’s thoughtfulness as well. It also contained a note from Joe:

 

Dear Aurora

This is a token to show my gratitude for you showing me there is a different world out there. If you want, you can wear that the next time we go out for dinner together. Hopefully, I can give you another gift sometime soon to show you I am serious about making you my partner for life. I hope you can also accept the proposal that Sean and Wayne passed on to you. It would mean a lot to me.

Love Joe

Aurora clutched the dress that Joe gave her close to her body. She would love nothing more than to be the next Mrs North. However, there was the small matter of Joe needing to get a divorce from his first wife first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                4

 

Bentley called in his investigation team for a meeting. There were a dozen officers on the case including Delaney, Pinkney and DS Richard Miller, who had been at the station a slightly shorter time than Bentley but long enough for them to become good friends and drinking buddies. DCI Delaney gathered the troops to his attention before giving the details of the investigation.

‘Ok guys, can I have your attention please. Thank you. Here’s what we’ve got so far. Businessman Tariq Hussain got off a ferry at the Pier Head at 10 am this morning. He was on his way to meet with his friends before an appointment with a client called Joe North. Tariq never made it to his appointment. At around 10.07, he was hit by a sniper’s shot from one of the nearby warehouses. Nobody saw the shooter and the only evidence found at the scene were some gun residue and a single strand of red hair. DI Bentley, you can take it from here.’

‘Thanks guv. We need to find the whereabouts of the following people who are linked to the investigation. Firstly, Joe North. He was meant to be meeting Tariq when he was shot on his way to see him. Was he actually on his way to see him or was he somewhere else. He may even have carried it out himself.’

The officers talked amongst themselves a bit before Bentley continued.

‘Second is Aurora Nightingale. Forensics have discovered that she was at the crime scene but we have no further proof at the moment that it was her involved in the shooting. It may have been there from another occasion so we need to get hold of her too.’

The rest of the room were taking notes. Bentley seemed to have their complete attention.

‘Thirdly we need to start talking to local business and people who were in the vicinity of the area at the time of the shooting. They may have seen the shooter, whoever it was, leaving the scene.’

Bentley decided to split the team into pairs to gather together evidence and possible witness statements. He would be going with Pinkney to take a further statement from Tariq’s friends.

Before he did that, Bentley went into Delaney’s office where he was having his own meeting about the case with his boss. Delaney’s office was like his style of policing: organised chaos.

‘So do we know anything about the suspects?’ asked Bentley.

‘Yes we do.’ replied Delaney. ‘This is Aurora Nightingale. Trained gymnast, dancer and professional killer. 25 years old. Top student. They reckoned she may have gone to one of the premier universities given her academic and sporting achievements. However, one of her teachers allegedly tried to touch her up. Understandable she took exception to it and slashed his throat with a pair of scissors. She was sent to a young offender’s institution. That’s where she met Joe North.’

‘How did that happen?’

‘Well, he’s a local businessman. On one of the ‘Open Days’ in the Institution, Joe North was asked to attend in that capacity and give a talk to the residents. Apparently, they had a lengthy conversation afterwards.’

‘I take it that’s when he recruited her?’

‘Possibly. As well as her physique, he was extremely interested in the fact she knew how to handle herself.’

‘That’s something to go on at least. Anything else?’

‘There are two other people who have strong links with Joe North.’

‘Who are they?’

‘Dean Burrows. He likes to make his executions personal. An ex paratrooper in Northern Ireland and Bosnia he knows how to handle himself in tough situations. North hired him as ‘muscle’ for his business. Burrows is normally around in case some of North’s clients aren’t willing to play ball on a deal.’

‘I see.’

‘Last but not least, Wayne Boxhall. Amateur boxer and has previously been a bouncer at various nightclubs across the city. He and Burrows tend to hunt together. Although, sources have said that he is known to be Aurora’s back up in case she gets in trouble.’

‘I take it that makes him the cleaner/problem solver of the group?’

‘Precisely.’

‘OK. I’ll see what more I can find out from Hussain’s friends.’

‘Be careful kid. North’s guys sound pretty tough.’

Bentley left Delaney’s office armed with some vital information on the case. He met up with Pinkney ready to go to visit Tariq’s friends. The hope was they might be much more willing to provide information in familiar surroundings rather than a murder scene. Bentley was certainly hoping that was the case as his options were limited at this moment in time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                              5

 

 

Aurora met up with a childhood friend of hers called Tara Sinclair. Aurora was wearing a crimson dress with short leatherette sleeves, black tights and heels whilst Tara had long dark hair and was wearing a sleeveless coral ruff top with black leggings and heels. They both wore sunglasses. They shared a bottle of Merlot. It was never too early to drink wine in their opinion. They began to catch up with each other.

‘So what have you been up to lately?’ asked Tara

‘The usual shit to be honest.’

‘What Joe’s wife still giving you both grief?’

‘Yes she is.’

‘Oh, Aurora. I wish you wouldn’t put yourself in these situations.’

‘He’s a good man Tara. He loves me and looks after me.’

‘Aurora, I love you and look after you but it doesn’t mean I should be your other half.’

‘I know.’

‘But if either of us were ever to tip the velvet, we should be together. In all seriousness though, you don’t have to go through with this especially if he’s messing you around.’

‘He’s not messing me about. It’s his wife.’

‘Why doesn’t he just see the kids? That would make your lives much easier. She gets what she wants, you get what you want and everybody is happy.’

‘If only that were true.’

‘Why do you think she won’t keep her word?’

‘Joe says that she is just using the kids to stop him getting a divorce and trying to win him back.’

‘It sounds like they’re both using the kids as an excuse which means that the kids are the real losers in all this.’

‘I’m not ready to be a mum and they may not want me.’

‘So what are you going to do about it then?’

‘I don’t know Tara but I feel sometimes as though my head is going to explode.’

‘You need to calm down Aurora. I’m worried about you.’

‘Don’t be. I’m ok but if she keeps being like this then I’m going to have to…’

‘Have to what?’

‘I’m going to have to kill her.’

‘He really does mean a lot to you doesn’t he?’

‘He does. I would do anything to make him mine.’

‘I know.’

Aurora and Tara said their goodbyes. They went off in separate directions. Whether Aurora actually wanted to kill Joe North’s ex-wife she wasn’t actually sure about, but desperate people do desperate things and Aurora’s trigger finger had a tendency to get mighty itchy.

Aurora was waiting by the bus stop. She was texting Joe whilst waiting for the next bus that was due in about five minutes. Shortly after, there was a man who joined her at the bus stop wearing jeans and a black short sleeved shirt. He was chewing gum but not to the extent that it was annoying. However, what did annoy Aurora was the man started chatting her up. She laughed it off at first but the man was being persistent to the point where Aurora politely told him to piss off.

Aurora started walking away from the bus stop to try to shake him off. She went along the bus route towards an alternative stop but the man kept following her. Aurora started to walk quicker, but so did he. There was no way she was going to break into a run. Not in these heels. Even though her instincts said she should. Instead Aurora turned down a narrow side street.

With the man closely on her tail, Aurora suddenly stopped, turned around and applied a swift kick to the man’s stomach. She threw the man over her shoulder and dropped a sharp elbow onto his throat. The man was visibly stunned by Aurora’s actions. She knelt down and grabbed the man by his shirt and had evil intentions in her eyes.

‘I told you man will you get the fucking message. I am not fucking interested. I tried to ask you nicely but didn’t get the hit. So now you forced me to get physical. Let me make this perfectly clear: will you fucking leave me alone now?’

‘Bu…bu…I…’

‘Will you fucking leave me alone now or do you want me show you what damage I can really do to your body?’

‘I’ll…I’ll leave you alone.’

Aurora released her grip on the man’s shirt and let him stand up. She then grabbed him again and slammed him against a nearby wall and gave him a stark warning.

‘Now you listen here. When a woman says she fucking well means no alright? Talking to a girl is one thing but don’t invade her personal space. Especially when she is wanting you to back off. Remember this; my name is Aurora Nightingale and I’m not a girl to be messed with. The next time you or one of your mates tries to chat me up I will go further than what I did to you just then. Got it?’

‘Got it.’

Aurora released her grip again and told him to go. She couldn’t be too careful in her line of work. Plus she was fed up of men thinking that they could just try to take advantage of her without any consequences. The man ran away clearly frightened off by Aurora’s actions. She breathed a huge sigh of relief and bent over to catch her breath. Aurora felt she may have been a tad harsh on the guy but she was not a woman to be messed with as her victims found out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                            6

 

Bentley and Pinkney paid a visit to Tariq’s friends who he had come to meet. They were gathered at Mohammed Farouk house as meeting at Tariq’s would have felt too inappropriate. Bentley and Pinkney arrived outside the house and converse before they went to the door.

‘Do you think it would be worth going in with an interpreter guv?’

‘I don’t think so. These men will be very tetchy when we talk them. It will require extreme sensitivity.’

‘Ok, you’re the boss.’

‘Right, let’s see what they’ve got to offer.’

Bentley rang the doorbell. Mohammed answered the door and welcomed the two officers in. The three of them went into the living room where the rest of Tariq’s friends were mourning. Mohammed offered Bentley and Pinkney a cup of tea, which they both accepted.

There was a definite tension in the air. Even though they were there to help Tariq’s friends, Bentley and Pinkney were treated with an air of suspicion by Anwar Ali and Nabil Mubarak. Both Anwar and Nabil just stared at Pinkney as she began to ask them questions.

‘Is there anyone you think had it in for Tariq?’

Anwar and Nabil remained silent if a little disgruntled looking.

‘Do you know the person that Tariq was supposed to meet?’

Anwar remained silent but Nabil looked irritated and tutted in response to Pinkney’s question.

‘Where you aware at all of the deal that Tariq was involved in?’

This question caused Nabil to become visibly angry. He started talking aggressively to both Anwar and Mohammed in Arabic. Nabil started throwing hand gestures in Bentley and Pinkney’s direction. There was a confused look on Pinkney’s face. Mohammed felt he had to address the matter for them.

‘My apologies for Nabil but he cannot understand why you are asking us all these

questions. He wants to know what you are doing to try and find Tariq’s killer?’

Bentley decided to take over control of the interview.

‘ناآسفإذابدازميليوكأنناتكرارالأشياء. نريدأننجدالقاتل

صديقكولكننحنبحاجةلمساعدتكم . أنتلستفيورطةحتىإذا

كنتتعرفأيشيءمنفضلكقللنا.’

Pinkney and Tariq’s friends were stunned by Bentley’s fluent Arabic. He said to them: I’m sorry if my colleague seems like we are repeating things. We want to find your friend’s killer but we need your help. You are not in trouble so if you know anything please tell us. He continued.

‘نحننأسفجدالهذهالخسارةولكنبمساعدتكمسوفنجدالقاتلطارق .

هذاهوالوعد.’

Bentley told them: We are very sorry for your loss but with your help we will find Tariq’s killer. That is a promise. Nabil seemed reassured by Bentley’s words and was much more relaxed.

Mohammed, Anwar and Nabil were much more open in conversing with Bentley and Pinkney after a few minutes. They were aware that Tariq was a ‘sharp’ businessman and this got on quite a few of his business partners nerves.

Bentley asked Mohammed if he knew the name of the person that Tariq was supposed to meet.

‘I don’t think Tariq actually mentioned it. Oh no…wait a minute…yes he did actually.’

‘Can you remember the person’s name?’ asked Bentley.

‘North, Joe North I think he said.’

‘Did you ever meet him yourself?’

‘No. Tariq was always guarded with his business deals. I do know that he bragged about stitching up some of his business partners. He saw them as gullible and greedy. We warned him to be careful what he was doing but he insisted that he knew what he was doing.’

‘You weren’t convinced?’

‘Not entirely. I knew that Tariq could look after himself but the people he was getting involved with were not very nice. There was just something about them. They seemed sinister.’

‘Like there was a nasty side to them?’

‘Exactly.’

‘Could Tariq have insulted them enough to have one of them want to kill him?’

‘I can’t say for certain but yes. Tariq was constantly putting himself in danger every time he made a business deal.’

‘Do you have contact details for this Joe North?’

‘Not directly. We have a number for his secretary.’

‘That’ll do. Thanks very much for your time.’

Bentley and Pinkney left Mohammed’s house in a much better mood. Bentley gave a card to Mohammed asking him to give him a call if there was anything else that the three of them could remember.

When they got back into the car, Pinkney was wondering where Bentley had picked up how to speak Arabic from.

‘My first proper job, I worked for a man from Egypt. He taught me some of the words and phrases to use and I took it from there. I picked up a few words and phrases from friends of mine as well as one of those teach yourself CDs. I thought it might come in handy working in the South of the city.’

‘Yeah, I guess it would be.’ said Pinkney.

‘Listen, I’m sorry I cut across you in there. It threatened to get out of hand in there.’

‘It’s alright. I know, I couldn’t handle it.’

‘That’s not true. Not being able to handle it would have meant you being aggressive back or leaving there empty handed because they refused to speak to you.’

‘I suppose so.’

‘Sarah, you’re a really good copper. Sometimes interviewing people needs a different approach. You’ll see that there will be occasions when your way is the right way. It’s just a case of spotting them.’

‘Cheers boss.’

‘Right. Looks like we’ve got some work to do.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                             7

 

Joe North called a meeting together of his associates minus Aurora. In the meeting with Joe were Dean Burrows, Wayne Boxhall, Max Read his ‘problem solver’ and a group of half a dozen other people who were linked to the upcoming deal.

Joe’s initial agenda was to draw attention to the previous deal with Tariq Hussain.

‘Gentleman, the Hussain problem has been dealt with. Mr Azaria and I successfully negotiated a deal so that Mr Hussain was no longer needed. We were able to call upon the services of a quality marksman or should I say markswoman, Ms Aurora Nightingale. She made sure that Mr Hussain was silenced.’

‘Is she here to thank in person?’ asked one of the associates.

‘No she is busy at the moment and wasn’t able to attend. However, I have now obtained her services on a more permanent basis should we need her.’

‘I’ve heard you were able to do that because you’re banging her.’ said one of the other associates.

This comment raised a few minor chuckles around the table. Joe was not impressed.

‘What Ms Nightingale and I get up to behind closed doors is no concern of yours.’

This brought the meeting back on side. Joe moved the meeting on towards the matter at hand.

‘Now as you can tell by the attendance here of Mr Lawrence Wells and his associates that I have decided to go with his offer for the £100,000 shipment of cocaine he has received just this morning. They are here today to complete the deal.’

Boxhall interrupted his boss.

‘Boss, I thought we were dealing with Greg Chandler today?’

‘Well the plan has changed Wayne. It’s since been brought to my attention that Mr Chandler cannot be trusted. Therefore, the meeting I was considering having with him is not going to happen. However, Mr Wells and his associates have made a very interesting and lucrative offer, which means we will no longer be needing the services of Mr Chandler anyway.’

‘Why won’t we boss?’ asked Burrows.

‘Let’s just put it this way Dean. Greg Chandler is a total scumbag that I don’t want anything more to do with. Is that clear enough?’

‘Yes boss.’ responded Burrows.

‘Right, now let’s not hear any more about Mr Chandler. We have got much more important things to discuss at this time. Mr Wells do you have the shipment with you?’

‘We certainly have Mr North.’

‘Excellent. Wayne if you could do the honours please?’

Boxhall and Wells both proceeded to place the briefcases on the table. Wells opened his briefcase first as he was the visitor. The cocaine was parcelled up. North went over to test some of the consignment. It was the good stuff. In return, Boxhall opened the briefcase on behalf of his boss. The briefcase contained diamonds to the value of £50,000 and £50,000 worth of bank notes. Wells’ diamond expert checked the diamonds. They were real. The brief cases were exchanged and the men were able to conclude their business.

Joe and Wells shook hands after the deal was done. The two men revealed to their other associates that this would not be the last of their business dealings together.

‘Mr Wells and I have decided that this will be a long term relationship between the two of us.’

‘That is correct Mr North. Slowly but surely, between us we will corner the market of the import/export business involving diamonds and hard narcotics. We shall continue to remain one step ahead of the police both nationally and internationally.’

‘Indeed. The competition will not know what has hit them. After we have cornered both markets, we will then become a fully legitimate business, selling diamonds and jewellery to all over the world with people coming to us begging to take narcotics off their hands in exchange for big money.’

‘Some may say these are bold words from Mr North and I but if he’s anything like myself I go by one mantra in life: Think big or don’t bother!’

‘I’d drink to that pal. In fact would you care to join my associates and I in a celebratory drink? I’ve got some single malt I’ve been saving for such an occasion.’

‘I think I’ll take you up on that.’

Joe’s associates escorted Wells and his associates through to his living room. He was going to join them but first he had an important phone call to make. Joe had to tie up a loose end.

Extract from The Goddess and The Grifter (A Bentley Novel) Prologue and Chapter 1-2.

Hi everyone.

I am looking to get my first book published. First of all, I’m looking for an agent to take a chance on this first time writer to help me get it published. I haven’t had any takers so far. Therefore, I am going to use my blog channel for the first time in months to help spread the word and (hopefully) create some interest. If any agent out there are interested, please drop me a line. Also, other readers feel free to let me know what you think of it. Here it goes. I present to you The Goddess and The Grifter.

 

Prologue

                                                          Time slips through your fingers

                                                          Like grains of sand.

                                                          Love is elusive

                                                          Slips from the palm of your hand.

                                                          But you’ve got to chase the moon

                                                          You need to fulfil your dreams

                                                          Or your life will fall apart

                                                          Apart at the seams.

                                                          We’re all saved by God’s grace

                                                          At dusk and at dawn

                                                          The whole human race

                                                          Racing around filled with fear.

                                                          Night time comes around

                                                          Guided by the light.

                                                          Shining like the sun

                                                          Your will be bright.

                                                          If you’re brave and chase the moon

                                                         You need to fulfil your dreams

                                                          Or your life will fall apart

                                                          Apart at the seams.

                                                         You will soon come face to face

                                                         With that wondrous place

                                                         But you’ve got to chase the moon

                                                          You need to fulfil your dreams

                                                          Or your life will fall apart

                                                         Apart at the seams.

                                                     Chasing the Moon by Aurora Nightingale

 

 

***************

                                                               

                                                                                1

 

Tariq Hussain was walking briskly off a private boat at the Pier Head in Liverpool. He had travelled from Egypt to deal with a personal consignment of cocaine. He never travelled by plane. Tariq felt he was less likely to be bothered at customs plus he had a fear of flying that stemmed from family and friends having accidents involving planes.

Tariq was looking around quite nervously, not just because of the parcel he had to deliver but also because he felt was a marked man. He was very much a businessman who played the field. He would often sell his supplies of cocaine to the highest bidder. This meant there were plenty of disappointed potential customers.

Tariq was met by three of his friends at the harbour: Mohammed Farouk, Anwar Ali and Nabil Mubarak. The three of them had been close friends with Tariq for the best part of 20 years and at one time or other had all been business partners of his as well. He greeted each one of them with a warm embrace. They decided to have a smoke whilst they waiting for the other party. Once they met the other party, the group planned to go to a nearby café to conclude the deal.

The other party was local businessman Joe North. A man who had his fingers in many pies. His frontline business was a diamond and jewellery store called Your Heart’s Desire. He had used some money that his father had given him when he turned 18 to set up his own company. Your Heart’s Desire was only the tip of the iceberg. The profit he made from that along with some of the more expensive stock went towards his other project: importing and exporting drugs. Joe would buy cocaine with money or his stock and sell the drugs on at a higher price to make a profit.

Joe had gone over to Egypt before to do business deals before with Tariq and it had been a mutually beneficial association. The African climate plus trips down the River Nile and visiting various tourist attractions agreed with Joe and he enjoyed his visits. This time, Tariq was coming over to see him and maintain their business relations.

However, Joe had no intention of meeting Tariq. In fact, he was in the Costa Del Sol doing a deal with Miguel Azaria instead. The reason was that Tariq had also promised the cocaine to Azaria but for a higher price. Joe was aware of the deal and had said he would not give Azaria any cocaine but he would give diamonds that he could sell on for a higher price to more lucrative markets. Azaria agreed. He also made Azaria aware that the consignment that Tariq was going to give him was of poor quality, which was why Joe agreed to the deal with Tariq instead.

Azaria was grateful for Joe’s warning and was keen on seeking his revenge on Tariq. All that Tariq was interested in was making a profit and he would keep the good stuff to one side for a really good price whilst exploiting other customers to get a good price for his not so good gear.

Joe pointed Azaria in the direction of a freelance assassin who would be able to get the job done. The assassin agreed to do it for a good price. In the end Joe was well paid for not only warning Azaria of Tariq’s actions but also for offering the services of the assassin.

A woman was setting up a sniper rifle in a building across the street from Tariq and his party. She was wearing shades, an all in one sleeveless turtlenecked black outfit with ankle boots and knee and shin protectors attached. She had red hair in a ponytail. She was trying to figure out which was the best angle to get in a good shot. She worked out that kneeling was probably best. Good job she had knee protection.

The woman bent down, lining up her rifle. She could see Tariq in her target. When you had been doing this job for as long as her, shooting people from a distance made the murder aspect less real. You weren’t ending somebody’s life, you were eliminating a problem. She could feel droplets of sweat dripping down her forehead.  She composed herself, wiped her brow and lined up her shot.

In this line of work, you literally only get one shot. If you miss, people will be on to you and they will either escape or you will give away your position and they will be able to find you. The woman was extremely good at her job; she had never been caught because she had never missed. She was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to miss this time either.

Tariq was hovering around a single spot. This was the woman’s time to strike. His friends were moving in and out of the firing line. They finally moved. The woman took one more look in the target. She pulled the trigger and hit Tariq straight between the eyes. He stumbled onto one knee. His friends looked around in panic, trying to find where the shot had come from without success. He looked stunned but he was very quickly dying if not instantly dead. His body was coming to terms with the impact of the shot. His friends put him flat on the floor, trying to get a response out of him. Tariq had a vacant stare. Dead eyes as they call it.

One of Tariq’s friends called for an ambulance but it was too late. He was probably dead when the shot hit him. Police went up to the floor of the building where people thought they heard the gunfire come from but nobody was there. The woman had long since dismantled her sniper rifle and ridden away on a motorbike.

 

 

*****************

 

 

                                                                            2

 

A man stepped out of the car that had just arrived at the scene. He was wearing a light brown trenchcoat, a light blue shirt and a matching tie. He had mousy brown hair and had a demeanour that showed he didn’t want to be there. His name was DI Nick Bentley and he was fresh out of bed. He was in his early 30’s but had been on the force for nearly ten years. A call from the station had awoken him from his slumber so he was not in the mood to wait around for long.

Bentley met with two of his eldest colleagues at the crime scene; DCI Tony Delaney and PC Sarah Pinkney. Delaney was in his early 40s with short, dark hair. He was wearing grey trousers, a dark grey jacket, a blue and white checked shirt and plain navy tie. He had been Bentley’s boss ever since he joined the force five years earlier. Delaney had previously been a captain with the Las Vegas police but believed policing in the States had gone too soft. Pinkney was in her mid-20s. She had her long, blonde hair in a bun and was wearing regular police uniform. She was regularly on cases with Bentley as she tended to do things by the book more than he did and she was one of the few who could control his temper.

Delaney greeted his DI and decided to bring him up to speed on what they had found out so far.

‘Alright Nick. This is the vic. His friends say his name is Tariq Hussain and                              his ID confirms this. He was over from Egypt.’

‘What was he doing here?’

‘His friends were pretty cagey but apparently he was here on business.’

‘How did he die?’

‘Single shot to the head. This was an expert job. Whoever finished him off                             knew what they were doing and exactly where to hit him.’

‘Have we found the bullet?’

‘We’ve combed the scene guv.’ interjected Pinkney. ‘The bullet has been                                   bagged up for analysis.’

‘Where there any other witnesses besides his friends?’

‘There were a couple of people but they didn’t see anything different to his                             friends, none of them saw a shooter.’ replied Delaney.

‘Fair enough. Sarah, you come with me to the lab and we’ll report back if                               they’ve found anything.’

‘Ok. I’ll get to work on finding out who Tariq Hussain was meant to be                                     meeting.’

Bentley and Pinkney drove over to the University crime lab in the city centre. They were frequent visitors there. Their first appointment was with Mischa Henry, the forensic pathologist. She was wearing her jet black hair in a ponytail and wasn’t wearing much make up. Not that she needed much as her smile, which she used to greet them, shone out from her dark skin anyway.

‘Hi Mischa. Have you got anything on the bullet yet?’ asked Bentley.

‘I have but you’re not going to like it.’ replied Mischa.

‘Why? What is it?’

‘Well, there were prints on the bullet. I have identified them no problem.                                However, the prints belong to a Lars Gustafsson, the man who                                                  manufactured them.’

‘So it’s a dead end then?’ asked Pinkney.

‘It certainly looks that way.’ Mischa replied. ‘Although, there was                                              something near the scene of the crime that might prove useful to you.’

‘Oh right, what was that?’ asked Bentley.

‘There were traces of gun residue in a building by the docks so it’s highly                                likely that the gunshot came from there.’

‘Interesting. That could prove useful.’

‘But that’s not it. We found a strand of red hair that could belong to the                                    shooter.’

‘That’s great. Did you get a match?’

‘It matched to an Aurora Nightingale. The hair would place her at the                                      scene but it might have been there from a different time.’

‘It’s a start at least. Thanks Misch.’

Next stop was the coroner’s office. Bentley and Pinkney met up with Christian Morris and Dr Fiona Miles.

Morris had slightly greying hair and was of an average build. He was wearing a lab coat over a light blue shirt and dark blue trousers. Morris was in his mid-50s and had previously worked with the police as a prosecution barrister for nearly 20 years. In his early 50s, he decided to switch fields and progress cases through forensic medicine.

Miles had a brunette bob and was also wearing a lab coat over a black top and grey trousers. She was a few inches shorter than Morris but was also of an average build. In her late 20s, Miles had been at the crime lab for the last couple of years. She had previously worked in the operating theatre at the Royal Liverpool University hospital alongside the surgeon before deciding to branch out into medical examinations.

Bentley enjoyed his visits to the coroner’s office, Pinkney not so much but it was another side of police work and it was always fun to drop in on Morris and Miles. Bentley inquired if anything had cropped up from the post mortem on Tariq Hussain.

‘Well, DCI Delaney was right. Whoever shot Mr Hussain was a pro.’ stated                              Morris.

‘Couldn’t have just been a lucky shot?’ asked Bentley.

‘Highly unlikely.’ replied Miles. ‘A shot to any other part of the body                                          would have severely injured him but not killed him instantly. A shot to the temple would. That’s how we came to the conclusion that they knew what they were doing’.

‘Could the shot have come from the building on the docks where the gunshot residue was found?’ asked Pinkney.

‘It almost certainly did.’ answered Morris. ‘The angle of the entrance and exit wounds proves that the bullet was shot with a downwards trajectory. Given where the building is, it would suggest the shot was from there.’

‘The bullet leads us back to the manufacturer but there was a hair at the scene. How likely is it to be the shooter’s?’ asked Bentley.

‘Well, it’s likely because it’s placed the scene.’ replied Miles.

‘However, it could be there for many reasons. It wouldn’t be enough to convict them of murder. It would just put Ms Nightingale at the scene of the crime at some point.’

‘Anything else we should know?’ asked Pinkney.

‘Only that the toxicology came back clean which means he must have only supplied rather than sampled the goods.’ answered Morris.

‘That’s given us something to work on anyway. Thanks guys.’ said Bentley.

Bentley’s phone rang, it was Delaney. He wanted both him and Pinkney to come along to the briefing on the case.It wasn’t exactly the start that either of them had wanted but at least it was a start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of: MATTHEW BOURNE’S EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

In the early 90’s Director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman(of Simpsons and Desperate Housewives fame) unleashed the fantasy film Edward Scissorhands starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The film was a huge hit at the box office (as it was with my wife). The story of a young outsider from the dark outskirts of town with scissors for hands and his impact on the inhabitants of the bright, colourful Hope Springs. Touring at the moment is Matthew Bourne’s contemporary dance production of the familiar tale. It is completely told through carefully choreographed sequences along to Terry Davies composition (although the mood and essescence of Elfman’s original score thankfully remains throughout the finished product).

Unfortunately, the story does take a while to get going. It doesn’t explain itself very well how either Edward comes by having scissors for hands or Edward’s sudden appearance in Hope Springs. From that perspective it relies much on the audience’s prior knowledge of the original text.

Thankfully, the production does get better with time and is worth staying the distance with. The different variety of music to help build our opinion of the characters was impressive distinctly marking out who was the hero, the love interest, the bad guy etc. There was a mix contemporary dance as well as ballet for the dream sequences. The latter was very much the highlight particularly the dancing topiary towards the end of the first half which is enchanting and memorable.

Edward’s good natured intentions draws the attention of two residents in particular: Kim Boggs and Joyce. Kim is the daughter of the Boggs family, who Edward stays with and he madly falls in love with her. While Joyce looks to have an affair to create some excitment in her life and Edward is soon the subject of her affections. In the end, Edward’s heart lies with Kim but not before Joyce tries to cause trouble by accusing him of rape and Kim’s jealous boyfriend, Jim tries to hurt him.

Edward soon discovers that things are not going to work out in Hope Springs and eventually returns home but not before he creates ice sculptures for Kim and shares one last embrace with her. An elderly Kim is shown on the stage at the end bringing the story full circle.

The story is well told through Bourne’s choreography and although it takes a while to get going, you are left at the end of it wanting more. It is a production that will make you laugh, cry and dance all at the same time. This interpretation may lack words but it has plenty of charm and memorable moments. Overall an enjoyable night out for all of the family.

8/10.

THE COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS 2014

What’s up peeps!

I realised when I was typing up my review blog for ‘The War of the Worlds’ concert I went to the other night, that I haven’t done a blog in quite some time. I thought that it was about time I updated you on what’s been going on in my life since I spoke to you all last and give you something of a preview for the up coming festive season.

First of all, I started my new job at the beginning of February. I’m now working over on the Wirral in a place called Hamilton Square near Birkenhead. The first nine months or so have been nerve racking and tough but at the same time they have been exciting and interesting. Leaving a job that I have worked in for over six and a half years and leaving some old friends behind wasn’t easy. However, what has helped the transistion is that I have had support all the way from my new colleagues. Along with some old colleagues coming over at the same time as me, I finally feel settled into the job. I have been recently been asked to join the People Group in my section to help make the office a brighter place to be. They have some exciting things lined up for Christmas and I’m looking forward to being part of it.

Liverpool came really close to winning the Premier League title. I genuinely thought that this might be the year with the likes of Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling, Courtinho, Gerrard and Henderson leaving the majority of the league in their wake. However, Manchester City recovered from a bad start to the season and seemed to just do enough to thwart both ourselves and a revived Chelsea. My Evertonian friends and I had a great time at the expense of Manchester United. Both Merseyside clubs finished above them for the first time it what seems like an age. This season hasn’t started so well. Suarez being sold to Barca (after another controversial incident with an opposition player), Sturridge being injured and new signing Mario Balloteli firing more blanks than the Territorial Army, dreams of winning the title this time round seem a world away. On the plus side, at time of writing,  we are still in three cup competitions and only a few points off the top 4 so not all is lost.

2014 has been an outstanding year for the Widnes Vikings. Not only did they make the Super League play offs for the first time but they made their first Challenge Cup Semi Final in nearly two decades. Kevin Brown was for me the player of the season (although Vikings fans gave it to the much improved Willie Isa). Brown became the first Vikings player to be named in the Super League Team of the Season and was lauded amongst the press as being a contender for the Man of Steel award (this eventually went to Daryl Clark, who along with the Castleford Tigers had a remarkable season). With full blown promotion and relegation returning next season, the Vikings will have to top this season’s feats just to guarantee remaining in the top flight for 2016.

Em and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary back in August. We took the opportunity to visit London, the place where we got engaged. We saw the stage version of Warhorse in the West End. Having seen the film and read the book, I was already anticipating an entertaining evening and it was. The performance was great and they really brought the story to life. The people involved in bringing Joey to life on the stage were amazing and you genuinely forgot that it was puppetry. Also, we visited the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, the breathtaking Harry Potter studios near Watford and the Tower of London (the poppy display was out of this world!). Two of my old friends Bridget and Helen-Marie joined us for brunch at The Breakfast Club in Angel, an 80s themed cafe with plenty of great dishes to choose from.

Two great films that we’ve seen at the cinema recently were The Mazerunner and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I. The Mazerunner follows in the footsteps of other distopian stories that have come out in recent years. It is based on a trilogy of books with a further two films in the pipeline. There were certainly plenty of twists and turns in the film to make me think that this trilogy could well be worth reading and watching. In a similar vain, Mockingjay is the final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy. However, like with Twilight and Harry Potter, the final book has been split into two films. Whilst Mockingjay Part I is a good film in its own right with plenty of great scenes and action charting the rise of Katniss Everdene to the role of lead revolutionary in the planned overthrow of President Snow, it does seem to serve has a two hour plus trailer for Part II which will conclude the series. There is enough though that will keep fans eagerly anticipating the final installment.

Christmas is just around the corner and over the last few weeks, Em and I have been slowly building up our collection of presents to give to friends and family (as well as each other). This just makes things easier so that we are not rushing round at the last minute as both of us are at work during the day through the week. As of today, our flat has been officially christmasified. We have a mini Christmas tree decorated with tinsel and miniture baubles along with various types of other decorations adorining the flat making it feel very festive.

With my team’s Christmas lunch, the final Hobbit movie coming out and nominations for BBC Sports Personality coming in all over the next few weeks, its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Until next time, take care.

WE ARE NOT ALONE: Review of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, Echo Arena, Liverpool, 28th November 2014

The chances of coming from Mars are a million to one…but still…they come!

When Jeff Wayne produced a musical work of HG Wells book ‘The War of the Worlds’ in 1978 with vocal contributions from the likes of Justin Hayward and Richard Burton, little did he know that he created a monster that would go on to not only be one of the most successful albums of all time but would evolve into a live show that would be  seen by audiences all over the world.

Now, 38 years after its release ‘The War of the Worlds’ is embarking on its last tour and one of its stops was the sold out Echo arena in Liverpool. The audience waited in eager anticipation of the musical and visual extravaganza that was to follow and they weren’t disappointed.

From the opening bars of ‘The Eve of the War’ through to the reprise of ‘Brave New World’ the visuals and special effects were amazing. They were excellently accompanied by the music that was provided by a combination of a house band and a symphony orchestra that didn’t miss a beat.

Liam Neeson, as the journalist George Herbert, appeared in three different forms; a 3D Hologram on the stage, a side screen and on the big screen just above the stage. He interjected throughout the show to keep the narration of the story flowing. His sung thoughts (provide by ex Westlife singer Bryan McFadden let us in to Herbert’s inner most thoughts as he went off in search of his wife, played by Jeff Wayne’s own daughter Anne Marie, who has been seperated from him by the arrival of the Martian invasion on the South of England. The poignancy of ‘Forever Autumn’ still sends shivers down the spine as Herbert wonders if he will ever see his wife again.

Shayne Ward provides fire as the Artillaryman, who has big idea of first of all taking down the Martians and if that fails, he will make sure that the human race will ‘start all over again’ in a city underground (Brave New World). Its a shame that Ward found fame on the X Factor because, for me, it undermines how amazing his vocals and how good a performer he really is.

Speaking of fire, the stage was literally invaded by a replica of one of the Martian machines which unleashed both lasers and flames on an unsuspecting audience. This was a great little addition to what was already turning into a fabulous show.

However the standout individual performance came from none other than Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel. A character  who was fighting internal as well as external demons. To say his character was having a rough time was an understatment. Clearly Donovan’s time on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and working with Kylie Minogue prepared him well for taking on such scarery creatures.

In the end, the Martian invasion was stopped in its tracks by an Earth-produced bacteria which killed them off and restored mankind to its control over the Earth. We are left with the nagging impression though that there maybe more Martians out there waiting to invade as NASA discovered.

We are brought back to reality by the on stage personification of HG Wells, Callum O’Neill. His speech explaining that mankind has proved it doesn’t need an alien invasion to be wiped out. The fact that since Wells wrote the book in 1897, there have been two World Wars and several other conflicts that have brought us to the brink of a third world war, have a lasting resonance.

Overall, the standing ovation at the end was well deserved and Wayne seemed extermely appreciative of the audience’s reaction. If you haven’t seen the show, grab a ticket whilst you still have the chance. You never know, this tour might be the last time this masterpiece is ever performed.

WALKING IN A WIDNES WONDERLAND Round 7 Match report

WIDNES 22 BRADFORD 18

Widnes fought off a determined 2nd half fight back from the Bradford Bulls to consolidate 4th place in Super League and keep up with the pace setters.

Francis Cummins men put in a brave performance in the second stanza to give the hosts a fright in a game which, early on, the Vikings threatened to run away with.

Widnes started off the way they finished the previous week at Hull; with resolute defence and plenty of control in attack. Jack Owens, in at full back for Rhys Hanbury, went in out wide after some quick work from the play-the-ball by Tom Gilmore.

The game then turned into the Kevin Brown show with the in form Viking’s stand off scoring two almost identical tries. Brown managed to sell a dummy twice to the flat footed Bradford defence to stroll in underneath the posts on both occassions. Danny Tickle was able to convert both tries to give the home side a commanding 16-0 lead.

Then the momentum shifted in the blink of an eye.

Owens managed to burst clear of the Bulls defence. Unselfishly, he passed to substitute forward, Paul Johnson who was unable to collect with the try line at his mercy. With the subsequent set, Bradford made their first serious attack in the Widnes half. Centre Chris Dean was controversally sin binned for interfering at the play the ball. From the resulting penalty, Liam Sutcliffe was able to breach the Vikings defence just before the interval. Luke Gale knocked over the extra two to leave the half score at 16-6.

Still a man up, the visitors had the wind in their sales and they were the first to score in the second. A brilliant recovery tackle by Paddy Flynn was to no avail as Bradford scored with the follow up play by Elliot Kear. Gale duely converted it to bring them within a score.

Widnes temporarily halted the rampaging Bulls with a try of their own courtesy of winger Patrick Ah Van against his old club after a clever grubber kicker from centre Cameron Phelps. Tickle added the extras to give the Vikings some much needed breathing space.

However, this seemed to spur on Bradford who were now regularly asking questions of the home defence. Kear came close to scoring a second before Brett Kearney gave the visitors hope of an unlikely victory with a well executed try. Gale’s conversion brought them to within four points with plenty of time left.

The Bulls certainly finished the stronger and it was only because of some resolute defence from the likes of Owens, Flynn and Hep Cahill, who played most of the game with a bandaged headafter he took an early knock, that allowed the Vikings to hold on to the hooter and maintain their 100% home record.

Its a sign of the improvement Widnes have made this season that a narrow home victory is seen as a disappointing result. If the Vikings played more like they did in  the first half at full strength, they will be a match for anyone. Likewise, similar second half showings and they can forget the play offs. Whilst Bradford, under new ownership will be hoping to lift the gloom caused by both administration and possible relegation. Further performances like the one in the second half from Francis Cummins men, will give them renewed hope of avoiding the drop.

 

VIKINGS LINE UP: Owens (T), Flynn, Dean, Phelps, Ah Van (T),  Brown (2T), Gilmore,  Gerrard, Clarke, Joseph, Galea, Tickle (3G), Cahill. SUBS: Clough, Johnson, Lloyd, White