Today I am one of the stops on the Blog Tour with Bloodhound Books for Red is the Colour by Mark L. Fowler. It was released yesterday, July 25th. Today I am sharing the first chapter with you.
Bullying. Corruption. Murder.
It is the summer of 2002. The corpse of a 15 year old boy, missing for thirty years, is discovered in Stoke-on-Trent. The city is on the cusp of change and Chief Superintendent Berkins wants the case solved quickly.
DCI Jim Tyler has arrived from London under a cloud, moving to Staffordshire to escape his past. He is teamed up with DS Danny Mills to investigate the case, but there is tension between the detectives.
When the dead boy’s sister comes forward, describing a bright, solitary child, she points a finger at the school bullies. Important careers may be at stake.
Then one of the bullies is found brutally murdered.
As Tyler and Mills dig deeper they start to suspect a cover-up. What is the connection between the death of a schoolboy in 1972 and this latest killing?
With the pressure building, and the past catching up with DCI Tyler, will he and DS Mills be able to put aside their differences in order to catch a cold-blooded killer?
Nobody had noticed the bone sticking out of the ground. The yellow diggers remained silent and the workers had left the site for the weekend, absolved of all guilt for what they had done; exposing a thirty-year-old evil to the fading summer light.
Josh Smith was walking his black retriever, Stan, along the canal towpath on a warm Sunday evening in June. With an air of resignation, the boy snapped the clip of the lead onto the dog’s collar, and headed through the gate from the towpath down towards the subway entrance. The weekend was all but over. It was time to go home and get that homework done.
The two friends scurried through the empty subway that ran like a labyrinth beneath the giant roundabout. They emerged at the Wall of Death, the notorious accident black-spot, a monolithic curving structure segregating the main traffic artery from the adjacent foot path. From there they began the short climb up towards the ancient village where they lived.
At the top of the first climb was a plateau, a no-man’s land that the villagers refused to lay claim to; a place of shadow that to outsiders marked the outer limits of the village itself. On the site where the old factory had stood, the process of demolition was almost complete. In a few months’ time a splendid new visitors’ centre would herald another exciting chapter in the regeneration of the city.
That’s what the local politicians were promising, according to Josh Smith’s dad. But for now, the place was one more graveyard housing the spirits of a great industrial past.
The usual shortcut, the un-named track leading from the plateau towards a rough and weary tarmac path known locally as The Stumps, had been temporarily fenced off. Undeterred, Josh and Stan slipped beneath the barricade.
Moving carefully between the giant mounds of freshly dug earth, the two adventurers made good progress, crossing the forbidden site towards The Stumps, where the second barricade had been erected. As they edged around the base of the larger mound, Stan yanked fiercely on the lead, the sudden movement taking Josh by surprise and tearing the lead out of his hand.
The dog was sniffing around the base of the mound, and as Josh got closer he could see that his friend was licking at an object poking out of the excavated earth.
Nothing more than a rotten old stick, thought the boy. But the retriever was pulling on the ‘stick’, tugging at it for all he was worth and issuing a low growl as he did so. Didn’t he realise there was maths and history to be done and parents already checking watches?
Stan seemed determined to have the treat and he was growling now with uncharacteristic menace as he wrestled with the dark thing that the ground refused to yield up.
Josh felt the first sickly tug of panic. They should not be in this place, stranded between the barriers festooned with warning signs proclaiming unspecified danger.
Darkness was closing in around them.
Josh picked up the lead and snatched hard enough to feel the leather cut into his hands. In an urgent, shouted whisper, he urged Stan to, ‘Come on!’
Still the retriever’s fangs clenched tenaciously around the new find, while his master stopped to ease the pressure on his burning fingers.
The earth started moving.
The mysterious object was still clinging to some hidden thing inside the mound, something as yet invisible to the eye. Stan was swinging his head from side to side, determined to prise the find loose. His growl becoming savage.
Josh could see that the thing in the ground was not a stick, rather a bone, blackened no doubt by age and burial. More of the earth was sliding. Josh wanted to cry. At any moment, the hill might collapse and bury the pair of them forever.
Renewing his efforts, he hauled on the lead, his hands ready to burst into flames. But Stan was still not giving up the struggle. More of the bone was emerging, bringing with it whatever was holding it back and keeping it partially submerged beneath the dirt and rubble of a bygone age.
Josh let go of the lead and placed his hands under his armpits, squeezing away at the pain. ‘Stan, damn you,’ he shouted, his eyes stinging with tears.
As more of the bone began to come loose, the boy could see that it was connected to something larger, something hideous. He wanted to look away, but found himself unable to do so. Instead, he stood transfixed, awaiting the extent of the revelation.
The scream was forming in the pit of his stomach. He could feel it rising into his throat with the realisation that Stan was holding triumphantly between his teeth the blackened skeleton of a human arm.
The dog was momentarily frozen by his master’s guttural scream, though he still wouldn’t let go of the arm.
In the awful silence that followed, as the scream died in echoes across the darkening city, Josh Smith watched the lower part of the mound collapse, allowing enough of the skull to break free of the earth to leave him in no doubt that the world was full of dark intentions and evil deeds.
All time went to the moon until sirens and flashing lights filled the summer night, the cavalry arriving on the scene thirty years late.
In fact, as Detective Sergeant Danny Mills was to observe, almost thirty years to the day too late.
About the Author:
Mark L. Fowler is the author of the novels Coffin Maker, The Man Upstairs, Silver, and Red Is The Colour, and more than a hundred short stories. His particular interests are in crime and mystery, psychological thrillers and gothic/horror fiction.
His first published novel, Coffin Maker, is a gothic tale set between our world and the Kingdom of Death. In the Kingdom the Coffin Maker lives a solitary existence, and every coffin he completes signals the end of a life in our world. One day he discovers that he is to be sent two apprentices, amid rumours that the devil is arriving on Earth.
Mark’s second novel, The Man Upstairs, features the hard-boiled detective, Frank Miller, who works the weird streets of Chapeltown. Having discovered that he is in fact the hero of twenty successful mystery novels, authored by The Man Upstairs, Frank has reasons to fear that this latest case might be his last.
In 2016, Silver, a dark and disturbing psychological thriller was published by Bloodhound Books. When a famous romance novelist dies in mysterious circumstances, she leaves behind an unfinished manuscript, Silver. This dark and uncharacteristic work has become the Holy Grail of the publishing world, but the dead writer’s family have their reasons for refusing to allow publication.
Red Is The Colour is Mark’s latest book, a crime mystery featuring two police detectives based in Staffordshire. The case involves the grim discovery of the corpse of a schoolboy who went missing thirty years earlier. Red Is The Colour is the first in a series featuring DCI Tyler and DS Mills, and will be published in July 2017 by Bloodhound Books.
The author contributed a short story, Out of Retirement, to the best-selling crime and horror collection, Dark Minds. Featuring many well known writers, all proceeds from the sales of Dark Minds will go to charity.
A graduate in philosophy from Leicester University, Mark lives in Staffordshire, and is currently writing a follow up to Red Is The Colour. When he isn’t writing he enjoys time with family and friends, watching TV and films, playing guitar/piano and going for long walks.