StillWaters:Book4oftheSophieGreenMysteries

BOOK: StillWaters:Book4oftheSophieGreenMysteries
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520

Macon GA 31201

 

Still Waters

Copyright © 2008 by Kate Johnson

ISBN: 1-59998-944-1

Edited by Tera Kleinfelter

Cover by Scott Carpenter

 

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

First
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: May 2008

www.samhainpublishing.com

Still Waters

 

 

 

Kate Johnson

Dedication

To Honey, the real Norma Jean: blonde, beautiful, bright, bimbo. I miss you, sweetheart.

Prologue

I’d been in the water for about six hours, they said. Puffy and dehydrated, my hair like straw and my eyes constantly stinging, all I could taste was saltwater and bile. I felt permanently sick. I was covered in small stings and cuts, and I was pretty sure lobsters had been taking nibbles at my legs.

I put my arm over my face to block out the sunlight, and tried to avoid the eyes of my ex-boyfriend, who was sitting at the end of the bed, glaring at me.

“Okay,” he said, his voice tight with fury, “now tell me what the
fuck
you thought you were doing.”

Chapter One

Here’s a piece of advice, direct from me to you: it’s never a good idea to go on holiday with your ex. Especially if you’re behind the wheel, or you have a habit of getting lost easily. Or he’s navigating.

Or all of the above.

The roads were hardly wide enough for a bicycle and so steep the accelerator was getting decidedly jealous of all the attention my foot was paying to the brake. The village seemed to be spelled differently on every sign we came across, and we frequently took the wrong turn because “Turn right towards Polzeath” can mean a lot of things when there are a million right turns on the road. All signposted Pol-bloody-zeath.

Eventually I snapped and stopped the car, ramming the handbrake on so my right foot could have a bit of rest.

“That’s it.” I turned to the back of the car. “Maria, will you navigate for me?”

“Maria?” Luke said in tones of disgust. “She’s a girl.”

“I’d quite forgotten.”

Maria was already heading to the back door. “If it’s good enough for the SBS…”

Luke was immovable. “Look, if you’d just do what I tell you—”

“Since when did she ever do that?” asked the fourth occupant of the car, a big black man called Macbeth. He was covered in dog hairs from Norma Jean, the beautiful but incredibly stupid dog I’d been saddled with for the week. Norma’s father had been a retriever and her mother, apparently, a ball of cotton wool. She tended to leave a film of blonde hair over everyone and everything she went near.

Maria was at the passenger door now and she’d opened it. She tapped her foot on the road and arched a perfect eyebrow at Luke. If I didn’t like her so much, I’d really hate her. She’s stunning to look at—all toned curves and glossy dark hair and big brown eyes and perfect clear skin. Cow.

But she is so nice. And she’s a good navigator. And Luke, for want of a better expression, was getting right on my tits.

Not that he’d been near them for months. Maybe that was the problem.

“Look,” Maria said, “either you get in the back or you stand in the road and make your own way there.”

“Or home,” I added helpfully.

“Whose bloody idea was this sodding holiday anyway?” Luke fumed.

“Do you want to be a part of the SO17 team or not?” Maria asked perkily.

“Sometimes I wonder,” Luke replied, his tone dark.

I said nothing.

Luke glared at me and, with a final mutter of “for God’s sake,” he stomped out of the car and round to the back, slamming the door shut behind him.

“Why’d we bring your stupid car anyway?” he asked bad-temperedly, glaring round the interior.

I patted the steering wheel of my Land Rover Defender to comfort him. “It’s okay, Ted. Ignore him.”

In the back, Norma Jean made a muffled noise somewhere between a bark and a howl.

“You tell him, Norma.”

 

 

Port Trevan was one of those little Cornish villages that would be impossible to modernise completely. Ted, my lovely, battered old friend, could hardly get down some of the streets, which were narrow and so steep I really thought we’d just plunge straight into the sea if the brakes failed. Which they never would. Ted might look like he’s in bad shape, but that’s just surface scarring. He’s a trooper.

“It’s down here.” Maria pointed, looking almost as excited as Norma Jean, who was jumping around in the back of the car while Luke and Macbeth tried to hold onto her.

“How does she know?” Maria asked, twisting round to look at Norma Jean, all fluffy and blonde and heartbreakingly pretty.

“Instinct. She always knows when we’re getting to the end of a journey.”

“One of those animal things,” Macbeth said, catching Norma’s collar and trying to get her to lie down, or at least sit. “Bitches always know.”

“So how far are we, Sophie?” Luke asked, and if the road hadn’t been so tricky, I’d have reached back and hit him.

Eventually we found the cottage, hiding away on a little alleyway that was, according to the sign, Rose Street.

“That’s a street?” I said in disbelief, staring at the gap between two buildings that were about six feet apart.

“Narrowest in Britain,” Maria said with some pride. “The locals call it Squeeze-ee-belly Alley.”

“No kidding.”

I parked the car at the entrance to the alley, and we unloaded as quickly as possible so I could remove Ted to the harbour just down the road, where he would be less of an obstruction.

When I came back and walked in through the stable door, I found a little hallway with a bedroom off to one side, and stairs leading straight up. I followed the stairs past a pretty, white bathroom to a large living room with a small, open kitchen. Maria was there, opening cupboards, checking the fridge.

“You’re downstairs,” she said.

“Don’t I get a choice?”

“Well, no.” She stood up and smiled. “Because it’s my aunt’s house I get first choice, right?”

“Right,” I said, “but there are—”

And then I realised, and I smiled too. There were two doubles, one of which Maria had obviously earmarked for her own. The other held twin beds. And since I wasn’t likely to share with either Macbeth or Luke, and they wouldn’t sleep in the double, that meant they got the singles. And I got the double.

“Excellent,” I said.

“I put your case in there. Where should we put the dog basket?”

“Kitchen. She hates being out on her own.”

Norma Jean was scrambling up the steep stairs that led off from the living room, and I followed her. Up here were the other two rooms: Maria’s large, pretty double and the boys’ twin, which already looked crowded and it only held Macbeth.

“Floral duvets, huh?” I said.

“You don’t want to swap?”

I shook my head rapidly. “Can you honestly say you think it’s a good idea for me and Luke to share a room?”

He looked me straight in the eye.

“Yes,” he said, “and you know it.”

I dropped my gaze. “Bullshit,” I said, and left the room.

“Where is Luke, anyway?” I asked Maria, back in the living room.

“Gone for coffee. There’s a tea room just round the corner.”

“Like, proper hot coffee? Not stuff we make ourselves?”

She smiled. “There’s a Spar on the top road and it’s not very far… Well, not in flat land, anyway. It’s a one in five, which is pretty short…”

I held up a hand. “Spare me. I think I’ll take her Blondeness for a walk. Hey, Norma?”

Norma Jean looked up at me with excitement. Ooh, walk, my favourite.

I found her lead and clipped it on and passed Luke at the entrance to the alley.

“I got you coffee.” He handed me a large mug that he’d no doubt had to charm out of the tea shop.

“Oh.” I took it, not knowing what else to do. “Thanks.”

There was an awkward second or two while Norma tugged excitedly at her lead.

“I—she—I won’t be long,” I said, and Luke nodded.

“See you later.”

I stumbled down the steep, thankfully short road to the harbour and let Norma off to run on the sands. We were way out of season—it was December—so I didn’t have to worry about where she was and wasn’t allowed to go.

I walked around for a bit, watching her run all over, gleefully sniffing every manky dead crab and bit of seaweed, and stepped out onto the little causeway that ran out to the harbour wall. I could see the tidemark halfway up the cliff and the boats in the harbour were on dry sand; it must be low tide. From here, I could see a couple of small caves cut under the cliff. My dad would love this.

But my dad was in Australia, along with my mum and my brother. I’d thought about going, but my finances weren’t in the best of places, and they were set to become wildly worse when I got home. I didn’t need a holiday to pay off.

Hence, I was in custody of Norma Jean, Marilyn reincarnated as a particularly dumb blonde. She was as sweet as she was pretty, but God was she stupid, I thought as I ran over to untangle her paws from some vicious seaweed.

So why was I here? Why was I freezing my bits off on the sand of a Cornish harbour in late December, baby-sitting my brother’s baby doll dog, sharing a cottage with my three work mates, one of whom I'd had a four month affair with?

Well, it beats sitting at home watching
Dr. No
for the billionth time.

And it was free.

And my boss insisted.

And apparently the air would be good for me, although right now it just felt like it was freezing me from the inside out. I gulped down my coffee and set off back to the cottage, returning my mug as I went.

Maria, by far the most cheerful of us all, proposed a trip to the shop to stock up on basics. The pub food, she said, was supposed to be really good around here, and anyone who liked shellfish was guaranteed to eat well.

“What about Sophie?” Luke asked quietly.

“I’ll get something from the shop,” I said. “I’ll live on Pringles.”

Macbeth and Maria looked puzzled.

“I don’t eat meat,” I explained.

“Shellfish isn’t meat,” Maria countered.

“No legs or shells, right, Soph?” Luke said.

“Right. Shellfish is gross.”

“Honey, you haven’t tried Cornish crab,” Maria said.

She wanted to walk up to the shop. I thought she must be mad. Luke joined her. I knew he was crazy.

Macbeth got in the car beside me.

“Some holiday, huh?”

I smiled. “You ever been away with your ex?”

“I moved to a different country than my ex.” His phone rang, and he answered it as I pulled out of the harbour and tried to remember the way back up to the top road.

“Yeah—yeah, well, I—” Macbeth glanced at me. “I’m kinda in the middle of something…” He listened for a while, and his impassive face gave nothing away. “That’s very tempting. I’ll get back to you.”

He ended the call.

“That sounded suspicious,” I teased.

“Extracurricular activity.”

“It wouldn’t be illegal activity, would it?”

“No, I gave all that up when I joined SO17. This is aboveboard.” He shrugged. “Mostly.”

“Are you going to tell me?”

He was silent for a bit. “Would you leave your holiday for fifty grand?”

I nearly stalled the car. “I’d leave the planet for fifty grand,” I said. “Whatever the job is, take it. And see if they need a ditzy blonde.”

He grinned. “I’ll bear that in mind.”

At the shop, he told Luke and Maria, who arrived looking mildly exhausted by the climb but glowingly fit and healthy nonetheless, that he’d been offered some work in Amsterdam.

“Oh aye?” Maria said. “What kind of work?”

“Private agency,” Macbeth said.

“With health benefits?” Luke asked, one eyebrow raised.

Macbeth grinned again. “Could be. Want me to bring you some back?”

And then Luke surprised me totally by shrugging and saying, “Why the hell not?”

Macbeth made a call while we were in the shop, and when we came out, he said, “I need to get to Newquay airport by seven.”

I looked at my watch. “If we pick up your stuff and go now we might make it.”

Leaving Maria and Luke to carry the groceries home and unpack (oh, damn, I was missing that?), I chauffeured Macbeth back to the cottage, picked up his untouched holdall, and drove him up to the little airfield, which was only about fifteen miles away.

BOOK: StillWaters:Book4oftheSophieGreenMysteries
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