To what depths would you sink to protect your own?
A prank robbery has fatal consequences.
Five Years Later
Highlands town Abergarry is shaken by the seemingly gratuitous murder of a local man. The case is unsolved.
Ten-year-old Jamie, while on holiday in Abergarry with his mum Charis, overhears a conversation. To him, it is all part of a game. But this is no game and the consequences are far more serious than Jamie ever imagined.
Old wounds are about to be reopened
Struggling PI team Maddy Clifford and Paul Mackenzie find themselves involved by a chance meeting. How deep into those wounds will they have to delve to unravel the mystery?
‘I thought you were away down south this weekend?’
His visitor didn’t reply. He had a strange look about him; his colour was high and his breathing rapid, and Dougie’s apprehension returned. ‘What do you want?’
‘You were lucky back there.’ The visitor moved into the room until he was standing directly in front of Dougie, whose forehead tightened as he realised what the man was referring to.
‘You were driving that flash car? What—’
‘Lucky for a wee while, anyway. I didn’t fancy running the car right off the road though, just to make sure of you.’
‘Oh, Jesus…’ It came out flat and far-away sounding, as realisation hit. From the corner of his eye Dougie glimpsed the tool box again, and with a speed that would have surprised him if he’d seen someone else do it, his hand flashed out and his fingers closed on one of the larger chisels. He held it like a dagger in front him, but his would-be assassin didn’t seem fazed; instead of backing away, he rounded the work bench, brushing by the wavering, four-toothed tip, and reached for a box that sat on top of the cupboard.
Dougie’s skin broke out in a clammy sweat, prickling along his hairline, but he still couldn’t move. ‘Don’t,’ he whispered, less an order than a plea, but the intruder ignored him and lifted the handgun from the box.
‘You won’t be needing this any more then,’ he said. ‘Pity to have wasted it.’
‘Look, I won’t—’
‘Put the chisel down.’
Dougie tightened his grip instead. ‘That thing’s not loaded,’ he said in a thin voice, nodding at the gun. ‘The ammunition’s in another box.’
‘What, you go to the trouble of obtaining a gun for your own protection, but don’t have it ready to use? I’m not stupid.’
‘I never really thought I’d need it,’ Dougie confessed. ‘But aye, it’s the truth.’
It wasn’t, but the momentary hesitation on the part of the intruder was enough; in the split second afforded him by a glance at the top of the cupboard, Dougie lunged with the chisel.
He immediately knew he’d missed his chance. He’d have had to use every ounce of strength he possessed to drive this tool through a heavy cotton jacket, and then into flesh, and he had neither the conviction nor the faintest inkling of what it would feel like. His sprained wrist flared with a white-hot pain and lost all its strength, and a moment later he felt the iron grip of gloved fingers on his arm before the chisel was ripped from his grasp. His blood froze
and he tried to take a step back, but there was nowhere to go. Even as his back came up against the work bench he knew it was over.
The blow took him low in the chest, then he felt a wrenching sensation and the spill of warmth down his apron. There was no pain yet, just a deep sense of shock, and he slumped against the bench, praying blackness would take him away before the pain hit.
He dragged his gaze back to his attacker’s face, and to his bewilderment it was the face of a suddenly uncertain man, one who nevertheless knows he has gone too far to turn back, and must finish. Even as the thought passed through Dougie’s mind, the crimson-slicked chisel moved again, and somehow, hopeless as it was, he brought his arm up and stopped the metal teeth from driving through his throat. The tearing pain in his forearm brought his focus back, and although he could still feel blood pulsing from what must be a grievous wound in his chest, he was wrapped in a kind of cold calm. He wasn’t supposed to die. Not him. He had all the time in the world… Hadn’t he just thought that?
He shoved with every bit of strength he had left, and for a second there was clear space in front of him; hope leapt, fierce and bright, before the gap closed again. His attacker’s eyes glittered with a kind of barely suppressed desperation, and he was panting as the chisel slashed through the air. Once more Dougie’s sluggish movements were just enough to save him, and his fingers twisted into the man’s sleeve, dragging the arm downwards. The gloves were awash with blood, slick with it, and the chisel slithered out of the man’s grasp.
The clang it made as it hit the stone floor was like a triumphant bell – to Dougie’s increasingly confused mind it was a signal to seize this second chance. He bent down to scoop the tool up, but when he tried to rise again his chest was suddenly full of molten lava, and he found he had to fight for every shortening breath. The chisel dropped once more, and this time his assailant’s boot put it far out of reach.
Dougie gave up the struggle to stand straight again, and sank to his knees, dragging in a thin, whistling breath. Terror returned in a rush, quashing his cold refusal to succumb. Mocking it. He looked up to see a strange, revolted fascination on his attacker’s face, as if he were studying a creature pinned live to a dissection board. Dougie’s mute appeal for mercy was met with a closing down of that expression. The floor beneath him was slippery with blood, and the smell rose rank and metallic, tightening his throat. All the strength was running out of his limbs… And all the time in the world was running out with it.
Dougie’s head drooped once more, and he stared at the thick smear of his own blood between his splayed knees. Helpless tears gathered, blurring the image, and began to fall. Tiredness crept over him, turning his limbs to lead and his thoughts to shadows, and more than anything now, he wished it were over. His killer squatted opposite him, and together they waited.
Thank you, R.D. Nixon and Random Things Tours
About the author
Writing as R. D. Nixon. Terri Nixon was born in Plymouth, Devon, but during her childhood her family moved to the moorland village of North Hill in Cornwall. There, at the age of nine, Terri discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those. Terri’s first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, in 2013, and since then she has published a further ten novels, with a twelfth due out December 2020. Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She has returned to Plymouth, and works in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Business at Plymouth University… where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.