Title: Death Bed: A Detective Geraldine Steel Mystery (DI Geraldine Steel #4)
Author: Leigh Russell
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins
Event organized by: Literati Author Services, Inc.
SynopsisTwo brutal murders. No witnesses.
The battered bodies of two young girls are discovered in North London, one shortly after the other. Desperate to avoid hysteria in the community, the police struggle to make a quick arrest before the deranged killer can strike again. Not having any luck, Detective Geraldine Steel, recently transferred to London, is called in to make sense of the grisly murders and the killer's unusual signature: he extracts two teeth from each of his victims. With the death toll mounting, Geraldine is running out of time as she hunts for the elusive killer the papers have dubbed "The Dentist."
Advice you have for aspiring writers. Up all night read all day
If you are writing with the sole purpose of seeing your name in print, my advice to you is find something else to do. Writing can take over your life. As Eugene Ionesco said, 'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of writing or thinking about writing.' If you have a passion for writing, what William McIlvanney calls 'an inexplicable compulsion', accept that your writing will probably never be seen unless you go to the trouble and expense of self-publishing. But there is a chance that your book will be a success, read by millions of people. It happened to me. It could happen to you. So work hard to make your manuscript as good as it possibly can be. Then put it away until it has left your mind completely. After this break, revise the manuscript before enlisting the services of a professional editor. Spend as much as you can paying for the best help you can afford. One of the benefits of having a mainstream publisher is that your publisher will provide you with the right editor for your work. Doing this for yourself will be more difficult, requiring some research which you can carry out while taking a break from writing. Although if you are anything like me, you will be writing a second book while taking a break from the first one!
TAKE ME HOME
Music thumped out a regular beat, any melody obscured by the fluctuating din of voices. Struggling towards the bar with the rest of the clamouring throng, Donna felt sick. She had drunk too much on an empty stomach and the coke wasn’t helping either. Telling herself she was old enough to know better, she manoeuvred her way over to the toilets and swore when she saw the long queue. A wave of nausea washed over her and she felt as though she would suffocate in that hot, noisy bar. She fought her way back to the table in the corner and tapped Lily on the shoulder.
‘I’m going out for some air.’
Lily smiled up at her.
‘Orange juice,’ she yelled in reply.
‘I’m going out,’ Donna shouted. ‘I can’t breathe in here.’
Lily nodded. Donna wasn’t sure if she’d heard her or not.
‘I’m going outside,’ she repeated. ‘You coming?’
Lily shook her head and said something that Donna couldn’t make out.
She turned and made her way through the door and onto Camden High Street. Pausing in the entrance, she leaned unsteadily against the door jamb and took a few deep breaths that only made her feel dizzy. A couple of men were standing on the pavement in front of her, smoking. Donna was aware of their eyes following her as she staggered forwards. One of them held out a spliff. She took it and inhaled gratefully. It didn’t make her feel any better.
‘Not bad looking,’ he commented, loudly enough for her to hear.
‘You know what they say about black girls,’ the other one replied and whistled.
As she hurried past them her heel caught on an uneven paving stone. She felt her ankle turn over and almost lost her balance. Startled, she registered that something was wrong and, looking down, saw a thin high heel lying uselessly on the pavement beside her left foot. ‘Sod it,’ she grumbled. Behind her she heard the two men laughing. ‘Pricks,’ she muttered under her breath. Afraid she was going to throw up in front of them, she hobbled to the corner and turned off the main road into a narrow alley where she stood for a moment, steadying herself with one hand against the wall and leaning forward, waiting to be sick. She wasn’t. Reeling, she turned back to the main road. All she wanted was to get home, but a large group of raucous young men had gathered on the corner of the High Street and she would have to limp past them to reach the station. In desperation she decided to return to the pub and find Lily, but her head was spinning and she couldn’t remember which way to go. One of the youths on the corner had turned and was watching her curiously as she tottered on one heel.
While she wavered, a car drew up beside her and a man got out. Seeing Donna sway, he ran round the front of the vehicle in time to catch her by the elbow and steady her.
‘Are you alright, Miss?’
‘Fine, fine. Get away from me.’
She stumbled and almost fell over.
‘You really shouldn’t be out on the streets alone in your state.’
‘I’m going to the station. I’m going home,’ she mumbled, close to tears. ‘I need to find Lily. I’m with Lily.’
‘Is there anyone at home to look after you?’ the man asked. ‘You’re in no state to be left on your own.’
‘I’m fine,’ she lied.
She was trembling, afraid she was going to pass out, yet at the same time overwhelmingly grateful for his concern. She had left her jacket in the bar, but it was a warm evening and she felt uncomfortably hot.
‘I think I’m going to be sick.’
‘I’ll tell you what. My car’s here. I can take you home. It’s alright,’ he smiled reassuringly. ‘I’m a police officer.’
He pulled an identity card from his wallet and held it in front of her face but her eyes wouldn’t focus properly.
‘Come on, let’s get you home.’
Donna nodded her head in relief and was fumbling in her bag for her front door key when a thought struck her.
‘What about Lily?’
‘Lily. My friend, Lily. My flatmate.’
‘Don’t worry about her. She hasn’t been too bothered about you, has she?’
He sounded impatient and Donna realised he was right. Where was Lily when Donna needed her?
‘Come on, let me take you home,’ he urged again.
One thing was for sure, there was no way Donna would make it home by herself.
‘My shoe’s broken,’ she explained and began to giggle helplessly as the man put his hand on her shoulder and guided her to his car.
‘Here we are,’ he said.
Donna clambered in, hoping she wouldn’t chuck up, and relaxed. Her shoes were no good to her with one heel anyway. It was a relief to remove them, they were beginning to rub, and wearing them all evening had made her calves ache.
‘I live by Highbury Fields,’ she told him as she leaned back and closed her eyes.
It wasn’t far but they seemed to be driving for ages. When she looked up again they were passing Kentish Town station which didn’t seem right. Donna sat up and tried to work out where they were. They passed Tufnell Park tube and soon after that she recognised shops on Highgate High Street. Everything looked blurred but at least she knew the road they were on, and the policeman must know where they were going. She closed her eyes again. She just wanted to sit without moving.
‘If you want to know the way, ask a policeman,’ she sang under her breath and sat up, gripped by a sudden anxiety.
‘You are taking me home?’
‘Don’t worry, we’re almost there.’
Donna leaned back feeling nauseous again.
The car slowed down and opening her eyes she saw they had turned off Highgate Hill and were driving past a pub on their left. Without warning, she leaned forward, bent almost double in the seat, and threw up all over her jeans.
‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ she mumbled.
The whole drive was turning into a nightmare, but the policeman didn’t even seem to notice she had been sick, although it stank. He drove on, staring straight ahead. Looking up, Donna saw a small patch of grass, like a village green. Turning to look out of her passenger window she caught sight of a church on the other side before they turned sharply right into a narrow lane screened from the road by a row of tall trees.
‘Where are we?’
She tried to scoop some of the puke off her jeans with a tissue but it stuck to her thighs, sticky and disgusting.
‘This is where I live.’
‘Take me home. I want to go home.’
‘I brought you here so my wife can look after you until you sober up. Then I’ll take you home. You passed out in the car back there and you’ve been sick. If you vomit while you’re unconscious, you can choke. That’s dangerous and you shouldn’t be left alone. It was either bring you here or take you to the hospital, and they’re busy enough on a Saturday night as it is. My wife’s a police officer as well. She knows what to do.’
‘Where is she?’
‘She’s waiting for us inside. Now don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine.’
She fumbled with her seat belt while he opened double wooden gates with a remote control.
‘I can’t get this off,’ she grumbled as they drove in.
‘Here,’ he released her and helped her out of the car into darkness behind the high wooden gates which had slammed shut behind them. Sharp gravel pricked the soles of her bare feet as she followed him across the drive under the shadow of the trees.
The front door closed and the man put one hand against the small of her back, propelling her towards the stairs. Donna resisted.
‘Don’t worry, my wife’s expecting you.’
For the first time he sounded irritated.
‘Why doesn’t she come down here then?’
‘Come on, there’s a bed all ready for you.’
The man grabbed hold of her wrist and half led, half dragged her up a carpeted staircase. She was dimly aware of passing a landing and a closed door, before lurching after him up a second narrow wooden flight of stairs. With a growing sense of alarm, she wondered how his wife had known about her.
‘Did you phone her?’ she asked, her voice thin and fretful.
The man didn’t even turn round.
At the top of the stairs he opened a door, pulled her inside and kicked the door shut behind her. Donna blinked. The room was very dark and it smelled foul. A skylight was covered with a black blind. Very little light came through narrow slits down the sides. She couldn’t make out much in the dimness, but she could see there was no one else there.
‘Let me go. I want to go home. Where’s your wife?’
She could barely speak, she was so frightened. Too late, she felt coldly sober, alert to the danger she was in. With an impulsive strength she jerked her arm free and rushed for the door. It was locked. A naked light bulb clicked on and she looked round and gasped. The wall opposite was covered in shelves displaying nightmarish objects.
Suddenly the man grabbed her by the throat and thrust her so she fell backwards onto a bed in the middle of the room. For a second she lay mute with terror then she began to scream, kicking out, trying to scratch him, horrified, while he twisted her round until she was lying lengthwise on the mattress. Swiftly, the man shackled her wrists and ankles with cold metal manacles attached to the bed, then sat back on his heels, astride her body. As she stared, his face came into focus. The shadows from the light behind him exaggerated the length of his narrow pointed nose, and his eyes gleamed darkly at her. Slowly his thin lips curved in a smile.
‘There’s no point calling out for help. The house is pretty isolated so don’t think any of the neighbours will hear you if you make a racket. They won’t. No one will. Except me, of course.’
He climbed off the bed and left, closing the door firmly behind him.
Alone in the darkness Donna tried to calm down so she could think about what to do, but she couldn’t stop sobbing.
About the AuthorLEIGH RUSSELL is described as “a brilliant talent” by Jeffery Deaver. CUT SHORT (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed (2010) was listed as a Top Read on Eurocrime. With Dead End (2011) Leigh’s detective Geraldine Steel was Number 1 on amazon kindle’s bestseller chart for female sleuths. Leigh Russell is the award-winning author of the Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson mysteries. She is an English teacher who lives in the UK with her family.
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