by Michael K. Foster
It has been another busy month, and after taking a short break in the W H Smith North East book signing tour, today I can now reveal the cover for SATAN’S BECKONING. I am very pleased with the cover, particularly as my son and daughter (Paul and Lynn) were heavily involved in the concept design. The cover also includes Penshaw Monument – a prominent folly built in 1844 on Penshaw Hill between the districts of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring within the city of Sunderland, North East England – more about that later.
The next three big dates in my diary include: 20th August, a book sign at W H Smith, Northumberland Street, Newcastle, 11th October Consett Library a book talk and signing, and most importantly the launch date of SATAN’S BECKONING – now firmly fixed for the 20th October. To coincide with the Amazon day of release, W H Smith has agreed a book signing will take place at the Gateshead Metro Centre.
Well that it’s for now. In the meantime here’s a sneak extract for the draft opening chapter of the new book. Hope to see you soon, Michael
Barry Steel was barely alive when they pulled him from the cab of his blue Ford Transit van that night. This was no accident, nor was it suicide. Somewhere beneath the layers of twisted metal, along with a dead woman’s body now trapped in the front passenger seat of the little red Volkswagen Polo, lay the truth. It would take all night before accident investigators would get to the bottom of it – they were in no hurry.
Jack Mason waved his warrant card under the young Constable’s nose, signed his name in the log and braced himself against the elements. Not usually the sort of job for a Detective Chief Inspector at ten minutes to midnight, he thought. As if he didn’t have enough problems already. Feeling like shit, his head was pounding and the back of his throat felt like coarse sandpaper. He’d read somewhere that oestrogen gave women a stronger immune system, and more resistant to respiratory illnesses compared to their testosterone-filled counterparts.
So what, he cursed.
He heard the ambulance radio crackle into life, then saw the blue emergency warning lights spinning. Seconds later, he watched as four burly firemen prepared to lift the heavily sedated van driver into the back of the waiting ambulance. Overseeing the proceedings, a young female trauma-team doctor was holding up an IV bag, whilst giving out instructions to a male paramedic on the other end of the drip line. It was then he spotted the large recovery truck. It was facing downhill, its engine switched off and cab windows heavily frosted over. Closer to home, not far from the crash scene, he caught his first glimpse of the Fire and Rescue Appliance. Nearby a group of road traffic officers stood huddled around the back of their police BMW X5 Traffic vehicles. Picked out in the floodlights, their distinct yellow Hi Vis jackets reminded him of a nineties skiing jacket his father once made him wear.
‘Not the best of nights, Jack.’
Mason turned sharply to confront the Crime Scene Manager. Early fifties, with an unruly shock of jet black hair, Stan Johnson had a touch of the eccentric about him. He bred budgerigars for show and was honorary president of his local Morris Dancer’s Society, whatever that meant. Amidst bouts of coughing, he watched as Johnson glanced across at the crumpled wreckage and raised his black thickset bushy eyebrows as if about to speak.
‘Do we have an ID on the casualty?’ Mason asked.
‘His name’s Barry Steel, he works for the local water authority.’
‘Not his lucky night!’
Johnson’s frown lines corrugated. ‘He was on his way to an emergency call-out when the accident happened.’
‘Has he said anything?’
‘Not yet he hasn’t, he’s still unconscious.’
Mason hunched his shoulders and dug his hands deep into his coat pockets. When he spoke, his warm breath condensed into tiny water vapour droplets sending out thick clouds of white fog. He wasn’t a conspicuously tall man, five-nine, stocky, with strong powerful shoulders and short cropped hair. His nose had been broken a few times, and stuck back on a face that had seen more than its fair share of trouble. Barely six weeks into his new role with the Serious Crime Squad, Mason was out to impress – or that was his intention.
Cursing man flu, his whole body was aching and he clearly lacked energy. Now turned forty-five, his twenty-seven years with the Metropolitan police had taught him many things. Above all, never take anything for granted.
‘What do we know about the red Volkswagen Polo?’ he asked.
‘It’s registered to a Miss Caroline Harper,’ Johnson replied.
‘And the young woman still trapped inside of it?’
‘No ID as yet, but she’s already been pronounced dead.’
‘Ouch! Bad start for someone’s New Year.’
‘I’m afraid so,’ Johnson acknowledged.
Mason did a quick mental check. He’d taken the call shortly after crawling into bed that night. Head on collision, they’d said. The driver was missing and uniforms were out searching. This sort of thing happened regularly in Gateshead, late night revellers out of control. Mason hated uncertainty. The not knowing what was coming next. Ducking below the police cordon tape, he pulled his collar up and made towards the crash scene.
Out of all the police doctors who could have been on duty that night, it had to be Henry Hindson. The man exuded arrogance from every pore in his body, and wasn’t liked either. Well, Mason cursed, might as well get it over with?
‘What do we have, Henry?’
‘Young women, slightly built, around thirtyish,’ Hindson mumbled.
‘Died on impact?’
‘You need to look closer, Jack.’
Hindson’s reply was abrupt, and Mason had picked up on it. Seething with anger, he struggled to stay in control. His whole body was aching and his legs felt as though they had lead weights attached to them. To make matters worse, every few milliseconds the dead woman’s face was illuminated by the ambulance’s blue flashing spinner lights. Eyes glazed over, mouth frozen open in a cry of revulsion, she was staring back at him through the mangled passenger door. Not your usual drunken driver head on collision, he thought. This one felt different – sinister, more controlled.
Mason stepped back a pace, his voice sounding croakier by the minute.
‘Estimated time of death?’
The doctor stood for a moment, removed his wool beanie hat, and ran his fingers through silky white hair. ‘It’s difficult to be exact. Not more than four hours, I’d say.’
‘She didn’t die here if that’s what you’re thinking . . . this one was murdered.’