Loading...
Menu

Killer Climate

 

KILLER CLIMATE
Book 1 in the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series

Alannah Foley

[A Mystery with an Edge of Humour,
A Sense of Adventure and
A Hint of Romance]

 

Ex-surf champ and model, Scott Chevalier, isn’t just a pretty face!

With an enviable campervan-surfie lifestyle, and a handful of impressive bush skills learnt from his grandfather, producer Frank Buckler sees great potential in the young Aussie and hires him to host a British TV show called The Campervan Bushman.

Unfortunately, things don’t start out too well when Scott arrives on location in England. One minute, he has to contend with the freezing North Sea, and the next, he’s in danger of being reported for popping off the local wildlife.

When things hit rock bottom and the director dies, no one suspects it could be anything but an accident – at least not to start with. But as the evidence begins to mount, Scott realises that the cold English climate isn’t the only killer around.

Join Scott Chevalier as he dives into his first mystery…

 

 

FREE SERIES PREQUEL

Get WIPEOUT, the series prequel, when you join the author’s Reader’s Group – click the image above or visit http://bit.ly/PJW-CBP-KCf

CONTENTS

 

FREE SERIES PREQUEL

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

EPILOGUE

NOTE TO READER

FAUX REVIEWS

AUTHOR’S NOTE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ABOUT the Author

CONNECT with the Author

OTHER TITLES by Alannah Foley

PREVIEWBOOK 2 in the Series

Copyright Information

 

DISCLAIMER

A number of scenes in this book involve wildlife.
Rest assured that no animals were harmed during the writing of his book.

[* *]

PROLOGUE

 

He seemed to have it all – a lean muscular physique, handsome tanned features, dazzling blue eyes and a natural, unwittingly-disarming manner to match. No wonder Scott Chevalier was a highly-paid surfing model back in Australia, Sheila Buckler thought as she looked out of the kitchen window and watched their delectable house guest dozing against the bough of a tree in her garden.

The twenty-something was wearing board shorts with a blue and white flower pattern, and pleasantly naked from the waist up as he lay back contentedly soaking up the sunshine, wisps of shoulder-length fair hair protruding from beneath his Akubra bush hat.

With looks like that, it was a given that he’d make a hit in the TV show he was going to be filming with her husband’s production company. What did Frank say they were going to call it again? The Campervan Bushman or something? In any case, he seemed to have talked about nothing but Scott since he’d met him in Australia. How the young man had been a surfing champ and drove round in a purple vintage campervan. How his grandfather up north had taught him a load of bush skills and all about bush foods. All of which Frank was keen to get him weaving into the show. It all sounded rather intriguing.

As far as Frank was concerned, he’d struck entertainment gold and couldn’t wait for the crew to start filming. Which was just as well, Sheila thought. His company, Young Sheila Productions, was struggling financially, just like everyone else’s. He was always moaning that it was getting harder and harder to make ends meet when it came to working in the entertainment industry these days. Why didn’t he just retire early and be done with it? But she knew he wouldn’t give it up. He lived and breathed his work. Always had. Even now, he was out wheeling and dealing, getting things ready for the show. His latest pet project.

Sheila continued to look out of the window as she lifted the jug of ice-cold fruit punch to fill the glass tumblers on the tray in front of her. She might be a middle-aged housewife who’d put on a few pounds over the years, but she still felt like a spry teenager sometimes, she thought, her heart skipping a beat or two. Oh, she knew she shouldn’t ogle like that, but somehow, she just couldn’t wrestle her eyes away. Anyway, no one else was around and Scott’s hat was over his face, covering his eyes, so who would know? Didn’t hurt to sneak a peek, she told herself as her eyes drifted over the sumptuous lines of his sun-kissed form.

Sheila jumped when she felt an icy-cold wetness on her fingers, and looked down to see punch pouring over the sides of the glass. “Ohhh!” she moaned, snapping out of her reverie and frantically grabbing at the kitchen towel roll on the wall.

“Curse that Poldark!” she muttered to herself as she dabbed at the tray, trying to mop up the mess. Her romantic imagination ran wild enough, what with all those romance novels she read. But with that Poldark show on TV now, a nation of women’s passions had been fervently aroused – and she and her friends at the Women’s Institute were not immune. They’d talked of nothing else since the riveting Cornish drama had first aired. Forget about exchanging jam recipes! There were more important things on the menu. Like what a dish that lead actor, Aidan Turner, was, for starters… And just when was he going to get that shirt of his off again and reveal those rippling ab muscles? The whole thing had got them all in a fluster.

Now, having Scott around as a house guest, Sheila could’ve sworn her hot flushes were getting worse. Or perhaps it was just her imagination – the effects of the summer heat. She wasn’t sure.

Sheila finished mopping up, straightened herself and put a flat hand to her chest, pausing to take a deep breath. She then brushed back her short, ash-blond hair, smoothed down her apron and started again. This time, she avoided looking out the window and concentrated on the task at hand; and when she’d finished, she removed her apron, donned a lacy, wide-brimmed sun hat and took the tray outside.

“Thought you might like a drink,” she said as she stepped out from the patio doors and wandered across the clipped lawn towards Scott. Scott slowly lifted his hat and looked up from beneath the brim to get his bearings, and saw Sheila approaching with a tray.

“Oh, thanks, Mrs Buckler,” he said, lifting the hat onto his head now and taking a glass from the tray as she leant down to him. “My throat’s as dry as a dead dingo’s donger.” He took a swig of the cold thirst-quenching drink and licked his lips. “Didn’t realise it was going to be this warm over here – not that it’s a heatwave, exactly,” he added, lifting the glass up and flashing her a smile of thanks.

“Yes,” she said, flapping the front of her flowery, round-necked dress, hoping to cool down as she blushed at his handsome gaze, “it does seem rather hot today.” Scott seemed completely oblivious to the effect he had on his host.

“I really appreciate you lettin’ me stay here for a day or two,” Scott said.

“That’s all right, Scott,” Sheila replied. “In fact, it’s nice to have visitors these days, now that the kids have flown the coop. Ryan’s in his thirties now and he still hasn’t managed to settle down. Gone travelling round Australia – staying with Frank’s relatives at the moment – “bludging off his rellies”, Frank’s always moaning. And Lucy finally got married last year – the apple of Frank’s eye, she is. So it’s just me and Frank rattling round in this big old house in the suburbs now,” she said wistfully. “Anyway, I know you’ll be off soon to do your filming up north with Frank’s crew, but you’re welcome here any time.”

Scott nodded gratefully but said nothing, hoping he wouldn’t need to be in England for too long. The only reason he’d agreed to come over in the first place was because things had gone ever so slightly pear-shaped back in Australia. Somehow, what had started out as an innocent rally with his best mate at Bondi had ended up with them engaging in a raging wrestling match on the beach. And the next day, pictures of his contorted face, mid-brawl, were splashed all over the front pages of the national newspapers and doing the rounds on the internet.

As far as Scott was concerned, the whole thing had been blown way out of all proportion. _ It was just a falling out with a mate, for Christ’s sake._ But according to his long-time agent and family friend, Rip Vanderbilt, the whole affair was fast becoming the media shit-storm of the year – in Australia at least. He knew how bad publicity like this could ruin careers like Scott’s. He’d even had calls from merchandise companies saying they wanted to disassociate themselves from the jovial surfing icon who had become a household name.

Rip advised Scott that the best thing now was to lay his head low – “just until the dust settled”. Whenever that would be, Scott thought. Reluctantly, he agreed to meet up with Frank Buckler, one of Rip’s old Aussie mates who happened to be over, visiting family in Sydney.

Although Frank’s main venture was the small film production company he owned and ran in London, he was renowned for sniffing out raw talent, developing it and milking it to the full – a sort of showbiz talent scout. And although Rip had initially hoped Frank could pull a few strings back in London – maybe wangle Scott some modelling work over in Europe where he wasn’t known – Frank saw other potential that Rip had missed.

What Frank envisioned was a show he’d sell to a UK TV network – a show based around Scott’s natural abilities – for a start off, he loved travelling about in his little old VW campervan, Delilah, and he’d been a surfing champion several times since he was in his teens. But what impressed Frank most was learning that Scott had spent a lot of time in the bush with his grandfather, learning how to hunt and forage for bush tucker as well as picking up a whole load of other bush skills.

And now, here he was, signed up to feature in Frank’s brainchild, The Campervan Bushman Show, with filming running over the next several weeks during the British summer. He’d only been here five minutes and already he was missing his camper. The only time he was parted from it was when he went out into the bush with his grandfather in Queensland – there was no way that sort of vehicle would weather the terrain up there.

When Scott had shaken on the deal to come to England, Frank had agreed to ship the van over for him. Now he was reneging on his promise and spinning him some story about it maybe being a problem to get it through customs in time for the show. It would be easy (and no doubt less expensive, Scott thought) to pick up a van somewhere just before filming anyway, he’d said.

[How on earth did he manage to get talked into going half way round the world to stay on a freezing little island like England? _]Scott wondered. He would’ve been quite happy going back up to north Australia to avoid the press. But Rip could be more than a little persuasive at times. _Ah, well, he thought, maybe he was right. A new environment, some fresh experience – it might do me the power of good. And he had to admit that the last few days had turned out to be much warmer than he would ever have expected of the place. Still, he certainly wasn’t planning on hanging around. Once the dust had settled back in Australia, he was back off home.

His attention was distracted by a creature moving out from behind a bush. A cat stalking a bird on the grass.[_ About to pounce and snare it in its claws._] Instinctively, Scott pulled his catapult out of his back pocket and launched a stone at the cat.

Sheila jumped at the sudden movement, and heard the missile whisking by. She turned in the direction he’d fired to see a black cat dropping to the ground. A sparrow, which it had failed to capture, thanks to Scott’s intervention, flapped its feathers and flew off as fast as it could.

“Ooh, my goodness!” Sheila cried, the tray rattling in her hands. The jug wiggled and almost slipped off but she moved just quickly enough to save it.

“Sorry to make you jump, Mrs Buckler. It was just reflex,” Scott said apologetically.

“Ahh…” she flustered.

“Looks like we’ve found the culprit who’s been killing off your garden birds, though,” Scott said, putting an optimistic spin onto the situation.

“Err, he’s not dead, is he?” Sheila replied, putting a hand to her chest when she saw that the cat wasn’t getting up.

“Nah, only clipped him. He’s just taking a cat-nap, y’might say,” he flashed her a wink. “Should wake up in a while.”

She covered her mouth and tried to stifle a laugh. “I hate to say it, but Frank will be pleased,” she said. “He hates that cat. It belongs to that miserable old grouch next door. Frank’s always picking up the turds he leaves in the garden beds.”

“Whose? The cat’s or your old neighbour’s?” Scott asked.

“Ooh, you are funny, Scott,” Sheila giggled. “Come on, let’s forget about that stupid old cat. Come and sit down and I’ll pour you some more punch.”

She walked over to the table and chairs on the lawn, and was surprised when she got there. “My, you have been busy, haven’t you?” she exclaimed, looking at the garden table, on which he’d constructed a replacement table top made out of bamboo from the garden.

“I’ve been meaning to buy a new table since that eucalyptus tree dropped a branch on it in that storm we had a few weeks ago, but I can never get Frank to come out and choose anything with me. He hates shopping,” she said as they sat down and she refilled his glass from the jug. “Don’t know why I haven’t just gone out on my own to get one.”

Scott took the glass of punch from her, smiling as she inspected his handiwork. “Anyway, I don’t need to get a new one for a while now, do I? This is lovely, Scott,” she gushed, smoothing her fingers over the bamboo.

“Well, it’s only a temporary fix, Mrs Buckler. This bamboo’s a bit on the thin side, and it’s still green. Should really use seasoned or fired stuff to make furniture for long-term use.”

“Ooh, for heaven’s sake, dear, do call me Sheila,” she said, continuing to glide a sensuous hand over the bamboo. “Hmm… We should get you showing off your skills down at the Women’s Institute. I’m sure the ladies there would love to meet you.” She felt another hot flush coming on.

“Showing off his skills, eh?” a voice barked from the patio door. It was Sheila’s husband, Frank, who was coming across the lawn to them now, a thick cigar in his hand. He was dressed in beige trousers, a panama hat and a navy polo shirt that showed off his paunch, a few chest curls and a gold necklace. “I hope you haven’t been lazin’ around all day, chatting up my missus,” he continued to gripe as he looked at Scott.

“Didn’t know you cared, dear,” Sheila said with cheeky sarcasm to her husband. “Take no notice of him,” she said in a mock whisper to Scott. “He’s always in a grumpy mood.” She lifted the side of her face towards Frank as he approached.

“Now, don’t be like that, my little English rose,” he said, giving her a peck on the cheek and an affectionate cuddle round the shoulders. Sheila blushed and flashed Scott a coy glance across the table.

“Scott’s skills have come in very handy today, I’ll have you know,” Sheila said. “He suggested I put some lemon verbena and a hint of peppermint from our garden into the punch. Tastes divine.”

Frank spotted the tray with the jug on it and a tantalising glass of iced punch. “Cor, could just do with a nice cold drink!” he said, picking it up.

“Cheeky! That’s mine,” Sheila said, slapping him on the belly as he stood next to her. But she was too late, he was already knocking back the drink. A moment later, though, he stopped in mid-swig, almost spitting his drink out.

He slowly lowered the glass, squinting. “Where the bloody hell’s all our bamboo gone?” he whined, looking over with a startled expression at what had previously been a healthy-looking clump at the edge of the garden.

Scott tensed, looking awkwardly at Sheila. “Now, don’t be rude, dear,” Sheila said calmly to Frank, “Scott’s been very kind in making us a replacement top for our table. Look,” she added, smoothing the table top and hoping he’d see sense.

Frank paused for a moment to look down and gave a grunt. “You shoulda seen what he made back in Australia. I woulda thought you’d‘ve whipped up a whole furniture set by now, mate,” he said to Scott in a mock-gruff voice.

“Ooh, will you stop teasing him, Frank?” Sheila said, smacking his belly again. He put his cigar in his mouth and chewed it with a satisfied grin.

“Not sure what sort of bamboos you’ve got, Frank, but they’re a bit thin to make anything decent, anyway,” Scott said, lightening up now that it looked like he’d been let off the hook.

“Wadda ya reckon? Everything grows like it’s on steroids in Australia,” Frank replied. He frowned at the bamboos, and couldn’t help thinking they were thinner than his bald patch now. Ah, well, at least the bamboos would grow back – eventually – even if his bald patch was there to stay.

“Talking of plants, are you sure about me speaking about British bush tucker on this show of yours, Frank? I mean, I’ve recognised a few plants your wife’s growing here – Mum used to grow some of them in her garden back home. But I don’t recognise half the trees or shrubs. Seems there’s gonna be a lot I don’t know about over here.”

“Look, just remember what I said back in Australia, mate. This is showbiz. Don’t concern yourself with the technical stuff. We’ve got researchers who’ll take care of that sort of thing,” he said, waving his cigar around confidently before his wife took it out of his hand with a pinched expression. Filthy habit, she thought, glad he wasn’t allowed to smoke the awful things indoors at work anymore.

He raised an eyebrow at Sheila as she walked off holding the cigar at arm’s length, but continued talking, not wanting to lose his one-man audience. “Everything’s in place. I’ve lined up a crew to work with you. All you need to do is turn up on set with your campervan and surfboard, catch and cook a bit of food to eat – just like you did for me in Australia – and throw in some of your bush skills. The show’ll be a smash hit.”

Frank looked round to where Sheila was now stubbing the cigar out in the flowerbed and creased his brow when he noticed next door’s black cat lying on the grass.

“What the bloody hell’s that cat doing in our garden?”

“Not very much,” Sheila replied, glancing at Scott, trying to hold back a smile at Frank’s reaction.

“I can’t stand the thing coming round here. Crapping all over the flowerbeds,” he said as he walked over to it. “Hmm… What’s wrong with it? Has he fallen asleep or something?” Frank said, squinting as he got nearer. Something didn’t look right about it.

“Oh, he’s just… y’know, having a little cat-nap,” Scott shrugged, trying to put on a smile when Frank looked at him.

Sheila finally burst out with a chuckle. “What’s so funny?” he said gruffly as Scott wandered over to where they were standing by the cat. “What’s wrong with the darned thing?” he added when no one answered. He tapped the cat with his foot. “It’s not one of those pretend joke cats, is it?”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Scott’s just given him a little bop on the head, that’s all. Sent him off to sleep for a while. He was after one of the birds and Scott used his catapult to shoo him off.”

“Catapult?” Frank said grouchily. Who the hell have I brought back home with me? Dennis the bloody Menace?

“Err… Over-estimated my stroke a bit,” Scott said, putting his hands in his pockets and giving him an awkward look.

“All this time, we just thought it must’ve been a fox killing off the local wildlife,” Sheila added, “didn’t we, dear?”

Frank nodded, finally giving a resigned shrug. “Ah well, just a shame you didn’t do the bugger in, I suppose… although pasty-faced Pete next door’d probably have something to say about it,” he muttered.

“I doubt his cat’ll come hangin’ round here much from now on,” Scott said, noticing it was starting to regain consciousness.

“Just as well. Bloody thing could do with a bell on his collar. I’ll drop-kick the bugger back over the fence if I see him here again,” Frank moaned as the cat reared its head. It looked around sheepishly to see them staring in on him, and suddenly looked startled.

“Get on with ya!” Frank shouted, stomping his foot at the cat and scaring it into full flight across the lawn and back home.

“I hope you haven’t tried sneaking any other weapons of mass destruction through customs, Scott,” Frank said. Scott gave Frank a non-committal look. “Hmm… Don’t answer that. I’m not sure I wanna know,” he went on, picking up on Scott’s hesitation. “All I’ll say is, you’re not in the bush now, mate. So if you’re gonna start firing catapults and such, do it on your own time – I don’t think the show’s insurance policy quite covers you taking someone’s eye out.”

Frank turned back to Sheila. “Look, I’d better be off, love,” he said, giving her another peck on the cheek. “I just came home to pick up my leading man here. C’mon, we’d better get you out of here while there’s still some plants and wildlife left to repopulate the area,” he added, ushering Scott across the lawn. “You’ll be glad to know, I’ve got a friend who’s sorted us out with a lovely little camper for the show.”

Although Scott had been adamant back in Australia about having his own van shipped over for the show, Frank knew the budget would be tight stretched to do so. Especially for a show that might only last a season. So he was glad that Scott didn’t throw his toys out of the pram when he managed to back-pedal out of the agreement.

Still, Scott hadn’t exactly been enthralled, so it was up to him now to make sure the star of the show was going to be as happy as possible. He’d pulled a few strings and finally come up with a van that he thought Scott would approve of – and one that would be a good fit for the show – all at a fraction of the cost. It was a win-win situation in Frank’s book.

“The bloke kept rattling on about it being from Devon or something,” Frank commented. “Not sure why that was important.”

Scott gave a wry smile. “I think he meant it’s what they call a Devon van conversion – you know, like mine in Australia.” But, no, he didn’t have the first clue about campervans.

“No worries,” Frank continued, as if he understood. “Well, there’s more good news… It’s a vintage model, just like yours… And get this,” he enthused, “the van’s got a name, just like yours, too… Well, not quite the same as yours – this one’s called Gerald – and he’s blue, not purple.”

Gerald? Scott thought. [_What sort of name’s that for a camper? There’s no way I’m calling it that! _]In any case, as far as he was concerned, VW campers were female, not male.

“I’ve taken care of everything personally for this show,” Frank said eagerly as he put a friendly arm round Scott’s shoulder. “We’ll pick up a few supplies on the way to the studio. Then I’ll introduce you to the film crew you’ll be working with before you all head on up to do your first shoot together. I reckon you’ll get on with ‘em like a house on fire. Our team’s just like one big, happy family,” he went on, steering him towards the side gate now.

“Accommodation’s all sorted. You’ll be staying on a campsite at Bambury Bay on the north east coast. I’m told there’s a nice little surfing beach up there, and an old boat-wreck just out to sea. Ideal for gettin’ in a bit of spear-fishing. From what I hear, you’ll feel right at home.”

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

His bronzed, muscular torso arose from the ocean shallows like a Greek god, his sun-bleached, shoulder-length hair spraying salty foam over his naked back as he flung his head back and held a wriggling fish aloft on his spear-gun.

Red, the cameraman, gazed eagerly through the lens, zooming in on Scott Chevalier’s form as he stood now in the shimmering surf, glistening wet beads clinging to his radiant skin. This is going to look sooo good in slow motion with music laid over it, he thought, a smile playing on the side of his mouth.

It was their third day of shooting the new Campervan Bushman TV show, and finally they’d been blessed – they had the perfect weather and now Red had captured the perfect shot – thanks to the absence of that annoying nutter that had been harassing them and jumping into the background of every shot. Pesky local.

His thoughts were pulled up short by the director. “Cut!” Sally shouted from behind. Red sighed inwardly and braced himself, convinced she was just about to nit-pick about the shot. It wouldn’t be the first time – not the first time at all. She could be quite the perfectionist at times, he thought.

“Cut! Cut!” she continued to cry, even though he’d already stopped filming. He turned round, not wanting to face her, and saw just what he expected: she did not look pleased. But then he realised she wasn’t looking at him at all. She was looking over his shoulder. He followed her gaze, now seeing what had got her heckles up. That annoying nutter was back again – and was about to walk into camera view. Red tutted as he walked their way with his vicious-looking dog.

Sally gritted her jaw, her fingers tightening on her clipboard as she put her fists on her hips, ready to do battle. This was the last straw. The stupid twit had been a pest from the day they arrived, complaining, making threats and deliberately ruining shots by walking on set.

Sally wasn’t in the habit of suffering fools gladly, and with the time he was forcing them to waste doing retakes, her patience had worn about as thin as tissue paper. And it was clear from their earlier run-ins with the man that he wasn’t going to deal with them in a peaceable way.

As he approached her, the man’s slavering Alsatian tugged hard on the leash. Red gave him a wide berth. Not only did he have a morbid fear of dogs, but when Sally lost her temper – look out! And now it looked like the two battlers were going for another head-to-head on set.

“And just what the hell do you think you’re doing this time? Surely you can see we’re filming?” she said, her green eyes flashing with fury.

“As I said before – it’s a free country. And I’ll walk my dog wherever I please.” Sally looked him up and down. Despite the warm weather, the man was dressed in a beige jacket, trousers, brown gloves and a cap. His tone was authoritative, as though he were ordering servants to clean up his mess. Probably even got his dog to pick up his own. Unfortunately for the film crew, there was no way they could stop the snide old duffer from being a total nuisance.

At that moment, Scott came up from behind. “Everything all right here, Sally? You want me to escort this gentleman off the set?”

But before she could reply, the man was already talking. “I can escort myself home, thank you very much. And, don’t you worry, I’ve already made a formal complaint about you people.”

“Oh, you have, have you? And on what grounds?” Sally continued to glare.

“Endangering the local wildlife for one thing. That fish he’s got there isn’t the only animal he’s put an end to while he’s been here,” the man carped, pointing at the fish that Scott was now holding in his hand, along with his flippers and spear-gun.

Scott frowned awkwardly at Sally, recalling the previous day. After the man had disturbed the crew’s morning shoot, they’d decided to take a break on the beach, in the hope that he’d give up and go home. While Scott was eating a snack, a seagull had swooped speedily down at him, beak aimed like a lance, hoping to spear a morsel of food. But Scott’s reflexes were keen, and he’d swiftly pulled out his catapult, sending the bird straight to seagull heaven.

As far as Scott was concerned, it was all done in the name of self-preservation – of a kind, anyway. Although Sally had had something to say on the matter. They were a protected species, after all – even if most people considered them to be a pest with a higher annoyability factor than the man with the dog. Unfortunately, it looked like the crafty old bugger had been hovering round in the dunes, just waiting for them to cock up. What was he? Some kind of professional heckler?

Scott dropped the flippers and fish on the sand. “Well,” he said, holding the harpoon ambiguously now, “if you don’t scoot, that fish might not be the only ‘wild’ life I’ll test this spear-gun on today.”

“Are you threatening me?” the man said indignantly. He straightened himself, trying to front up to Scott. His dog was growling even more now, but even with the mutt in tow, Scott could sense a certain shakiness behind his bravado.

“Come on, Lassie,” he grunted, tugging at the dog’s leash. “Make no mistake,” he added as he made to leave, “I’ll be reporting this incident to the police.”

A smile played on Scott’s lips as he walked away. He was just a bossy old sticky-beak with nothing better to do, he thought. And fancy naming a nasty old Alsatian like that Lassie! He looked round at Sally and frowned. He might have expected her to be angry with him if anything, but instead, her face looked surprisingly haggard. The whole episode had obviously taken more of a toll on her than he’d realised.

“Look,” she said to the two young men, rubbing her brow, “let’s leave things for today. We’ll get back into it in the morning, all right?” Red nodded, concerned. “Can you take the equipment back to the campsite, boys?” she asked rhetorically, dropping her clipboard onto Red’s holdall. “I really need to take a break. I’m going to walk things off.”

Red and Scott exchanged glances. “Ah, sure,” Red replied as Sally wasted no time in tramping off across the sand.

“Jeez, those two fight like an old married couple,” Scott said when Sally was out of earshot. “Anyway, I reckon she’s taking that old coot way too seriously.”

“I’ve worked with her for a while now, and I know she can be a bit highly strung sometimes, but…” Red said, watching her tensed, lithe frame head for the shoreline, her fair hair being tousled by the light breeze.

“Ah, you know what women are like,” Scott said, making light of her behaviour. “Mars is probably at funny angles with the moon or something.”

“I don’t know… Something doesn’t feel right,” Red mused. “If she’s stressed, she normally blows up big time – just like a volcano. I’ve never seen her cork it up like this. She would normally have bitten my head off by now.”

“Well, she might be a bit testy, but I think a bit of feistiness is quite alluring in a woman. And you’ve got to admit, Sally sure is an attractive lady, even if she is on the older side.”

“You make her sound ancient. I don’t think Sally’s that old… Hmm…, y’know, she might just be having some reaction to those tranquillisers she’s started taking,” Red said thoughtfully, returning to topic. “I only found out about it by accident, so it might be best not to say anything to Penny – just in case. Mind you, nothing stays a secret for long in our game.” Red expected Sally’s daughter was bound to find out sooner or later – if she didn’t already know, that is.

“No worries,” Scott nodded. “You’re right, though. You can get some funny side effects with pills – and some tranquillisers can end up being addictive as well. Prefer bush medicine and a good night’s rest wherever possible meself.”

Red was just about to make a reply comment when he noticed Scott’s goose-pimpled chest. “Crikey, your nipples are like organ stops, man. You must be freezing.” He tutted good-naturedly. “I expect I’ll have to be your ‘personal assistant’ today since Penny’s not around. Hold on, I should have a towel in here somewhere,” he said, fishing round in his holdall.

“Thanks, mate,” Scott shivered, “the sun might’ve made a show, but that water’s like ice. Don’t know why I can’t wear a wetsuit for these ocean shots.”

Red pulled an orange towel from his holdall and held it out. Scott winced. “Ah, I don’t wanna be ungrateful, mate, but that’s barely bigger than a tea-towel.” Red looked back at him, disheartened. “Hey, I didn’t mean to offend…” Scott said, trying to back-pedal. “Oh, give it here…” He pulled the towel from Red’s hand. “Thanks for the thought,” he added.

Red frowned as Scott attempted to make good with the towel, covering his neck and shoulders, then tucking it into the cord of his shark’s-tooth necklace. Scott was right, Red winced to himself, it was ridiculously small. Oh, well, he thought, turning to lift the holdall off his little wheelie-crate and pack things away inside. “Might as well chuck your flippers in here. Err…” he said, fishing a plastic bag from his holdall, “stick your fish in here. It’ll stink everything else out.”

“No worries,” Scott said.

“To answer your question about the wetsuit,” Red said as he finally put his holdall on top of everything in the crate. “I think Sally’s set on getting your naked flesh in front of the audience as much as possible – Frank always says that sort of thing’s good for the ratings… Anyway, I thought you Aussies were meant to be tough,” he smiled, hefting the camera strap around his shoulder and making his way towards the dunes with Scott.

“Well, y’know… under normal circumstances, maybe. But put us in Arctic conditions like this, and we turn into complete wusses,” Scott smiled.

“Blimey, what’re you gonna be like when winter comes around? Just as well we’re into summer now. You’re lucky – it’s been brightening up lately. The rest of the year’s been a complete flop. No change there, though.”

Jeez! Scott frowned to himself. He didn’t like the sound of that. It’s more like a winter’s day in Sydney here – even colder when the wind blows off that sea.[_ _]He just hoped he was going to be back on home soil by the time the British winter set in. The thought of having to literally weather the climate here was unthinkable. He was only meant to be in England for a few months, anyway – not indefinitely.

Would he go back even if his agent, Rip, told him the dust hadn’t settled yet in Australia? Hmm… Probably best not to think about it all too much. And, anyway, he might have some interesting new experiences here. He was already hitting it off with Sally’s daughter, Penny, so what was the rush? In the meantime, England was an OK enough place to hang out – from what he’d seen so far, anyway. But there was no denying – it sure wasn’t home.

“I’ll see if I can find Penny when we get back to the campsite,” Red said, breaking into his thoughts. “Let her know what’s been going on. Give her a heads-up that her mum’s not in a good way.”

“Where’s she been all this time, anyway?” asked Scott as they got onto the woodland path that led up to the campsite. “I thought she was meant to be working on set. On some internship thing?”

“Her mum sent her off to town for… err, supplies,” he said, looking at Scott with an awkward expression. “Actually, she asked Penny to buy a couple of locally-caught fish – you know, just in case you didn’t catch anything when you were free-diving around that shipwreck just off shore.”

“Are you kidding me?” Scott said, incredulous. “So… what? If there wasn’t any fish around, she was gonna stick a dead one on the end of my spear-gun and make it look like I’d just caught it?”

“It’s what they call ‘artistic licence’ – or, to coin one of Frank’s phrases “this is showbiz, mate”,” Red said, trying to mimic Frank’s gravelly Aussie voice. “Might as well get used to it,” he shrugged.

“Hmm… So, how is Penny supposed to learn the ropes if she’s not on set?” Scott asked, trying to shrug off the idea that he might be called upon to make a few more compromises.

“Oh, she’ll be all right. Even before she came to do her work experience with the company, she was apparently always on set – she lives and breathes this stuff as much as her mother. Born into it, you might say. She won’t be working on sound forever, not like she is now. She’ll end up directing on her own sets, just like her mother, mark my words. I just hope she’s not going to turn out too much like her.” Scott gave him a curious look. “I mean, Sally’s good at what she does, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder if she’s too good sometimes,” Red grumbled.

“How d’you mean?”

“Well, I’ve been working with her for a few years now – even before I finished my degree – and she treats me like I’m a complete numpty sometimes, like I’ve just started out and don’t know what I’m doing. She can be quite… well, picky, sometimes,” Scott nodded, taking it all in.

Clouds drifted across the sun above the tree canopy and, as the wind whistled up the woodland path, Scott wished the tiny towel was much bigger and could cover the sections of his back that had now gone numb.

“Hey, by the way, what was that old guy saying earlier on the beach – you know, about reporting us?” Scott asked, curious. “Seagulls are protected over here, too, right? You don’t reckon I’m gonna get the crew in any trouble, do ya? I mean, that bird was gunning for me yesterday. If I hadn’t shot the bugger down, he woulda had my eye out.”

“I doubt you’ve got anything to worry about. Most people I know think of them as pests. My aunt lives on the coast down south and seagulls are such a problem there, they have to put these metal spikes all over the place – on top of the buildings, lamp-posts – ‘cos the birds nest and poop all over the place otherwise. I think that idiot with the dog was just blowing smoke.”

“Y’know, I reckon it’s strange how it’s OK to kill fish in the sea, but not nuisance seagulls… Seems like it’s all the same to me – unless we’re talking about a dying species or something. My grandfather worked in the bush most of his life and he always says it’s like a sin to waste what food nature puts your way – not that he was religious or anything… Yep, it’s all fair game for the barbie as far as I’m concerned.”

Red creased his brow. “Hold on a minute. You’re not by any chance saying you ate that seagull yesterday, are you? Only, I thought when you took it back to the site, you said you were going to dispose of it.”

“Ah…” Scott hesitated to answer, aware that he’d been a little loose and free with the word ‘dispose’. In actual fact, he’d fully intended to eat the bird, and it was currently prepped and diced, marinating back in his little campervan fridge in some local brown ale he’d picked up en route to the site. His plan was to cook it up into a nice kebab that evening when Penny came round. By the end of the evening, there’d be no evidence whatsoever that he’d killed the local wildlife.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Scott asked.

“Err… Nothing. It’s just that… well, I’m a vegetarian. Can’t stand meat at the best of times, but the thought of eating seagull. Urgh!”

“You’re a veggie? Fair dinkum! That explains a few things. No wonder you look so pale.”

“Ah, if you hadn’t noticed, Scott, my hair’s ginger… And you can blame my Scottish ancestry for my complexion – it’s not ‘cos I’m vegetarian,” Red countered.

“Well, Scottish or not, I reckon you could do with chuckin’ a few of them haggis things down your neck once in a while. Might beef you up a bit – y’know, put some hairs on your chest,” Scott said as they took a fork in the path and headed towards the site.

“Well, I’m not actually Scottish. I’m from the Midlands – just in case you can’t tell. I used to know this American woman – special effects artist – didn’t have a clue about British accents… Anyway,” Red said, glancing down with mixed feelings at his biceps which were poking out from beneath the sleeve of his red and black striped polo shirt, “I might not be Mr Muscle, but I don’t think I could go back to eating meat. Especially not if I was eating off your menu.”

Scott smiled at the comment. “Even so, if you wanna impress the ladies, Red, you’ve gotta keep in shape – put a bit of muscle on ya. Give you a few pointers if you like,” he said as they passed his vintage, cornflower-blue campervan and headed to Red’s tent with the equipment.

“Yeah, OK,” Red smiled gratefully as they arrived at his tent. “Oh, and talking of ladies,” he indicated with his chin towards the toilet block, “there’s Penny. I’ll go and bring her up to speed, then go and have a scout round the site to get some background shots. At least Sally won’t be able to complain that I’ve been sitting on my laurels while she’s been off for her walk,” he added.

“Right, I’ll leave you to it,” Scott said. “Err, thanks for the towel, mate,” he added, unhooking it from his necklace and popping it on top of Red’s holdall. “Better go chuck myself under a hot shower for half an hour – see if I can warm up.”

“All right, see ya later,” Red replied, bending down to his crate and taking his holdall off the top. He tutted, lifting the plastic bag out and holding it up as he saw Scott scooting off.

“Hey!” he called after him. “What about this stinky fish you’ve left me with?” But Scott was already out of earshot.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Scott was making his way through the door to the campsite reception when a bubbly group of girls headed his way. He was still semi-naked, wearing his board shorts, and when they caught site of his tanned muscles and handsome blond looks, they started giggling with delight. He gave a wide smile back at them, holding the door open as they left.

“My sister’s girl and her chums,” Mr Musgrave, the site owner, indicated as he stood behind the reception desk, beaming with pride. He was dressed in the site’s dark green polo shirt and trouser kit, and had a relaxed air about him, like someone who spent his days on the golf course. “They’re here for a sort of hen celebration – her mate’s getting married in a couple of days. Just had her twenty-first birthday, she has. Used to be a proper little tomboy when she were younger. She’s turned into a lovely young lady now, though,” he said, as though in a reverie. How the years had slipped away.

“Ah… lovely,” Scott said, even though he didn’t know the girl in question.

At Scott’s voice, Mr Musgrave seemed to snap out of his sentimental thoughts with a frown. Lovely, eh? he thought, sizing up Scott. It was obvious he was the sort the ladies would go for in a heartbeat. Might just keep my eye on that one, he thought, especially with my niece and her mates around.

“You’re with that film crew, aren’t yer, lad?” Mr Musgrave said, his face lightening again. “I wasn’t here the other day when you checked in.”

“That’s right. I’m Scott, Scott Chevalier,” he replied, reaching across the counter to shake his hand. Scott tried to hide a cringe when he noticed his bad dandruff problem – it not only powdered his shoulders but his sleeves, too. “Err… Yeah, we’ve been filming down at the beach today.”

“Did a bit of work on sets myself years ago,” Mr Musgrave said, lifting himself briefly onto his toes. “I was originally a carpenter by trade. Had a mate who contracted me in to help build sets, like. Worked away from home quite a bit, but I didn’t mind it. It was nice to see a bit of the country while I was still young.”

“Broadens the mind, so they say,” Scott nodded, although his mind hadn’t yet broadened to completely accepting the British weather yet. There might have been a bit of sunshine so far, but that didn’t seem to necessarily mean it was warm, or that it was there to stay for long.

“All that gaddin’ about took its toll on Agatha, though – the missus, that is. Anyway, we were engaged at the time and looking at buying this site, so I knocked it all on the head and settled back here in Northumberland. Rebuilt this place myself – with a bit of help from Agatha’s cousin Jim. It was in a shocking state when we took it over… Managed to get a load of reclaimed wood at a discount a while back, so I’ve got a little pet project going at the moment… I’ve always wanted to have a games room on site – somewhere people can play ping pong, snooker, darts, that sort of thing – so I’m building a large shed.”

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen it. Over the other side of the site…” Scott said.

“That’s it. Bit of a mess at the moment. I don’t get a lot of time to work on it – but the odd hour here and there soon adds up. I’ll have more time for it in the off-season, anyway. And Jim can sort out the electrics – he doesn’t charge a fortune, being as we’re family.”

“We call it “mate’s rates” back home,” Scott smiled.

“Oh, yes?” Mr Musgrave smiled back. “And I’m assuming by ‘home’, you mean Australia… I’m sure that’s an Aussie accent I detect there…?” he enquired.

“That’s right. Not long been over here. I’ve mostly been up in Queensland the last few months, so I’m still trying to acclimatise. Thought I’d get under the shower for a bit – try and warm up. Run out of shower tokens again, though, I’m afraid.”

“Well, we can fix that, no problem, lad,” he replied, fishing round in a box under the desk. “Oh, hold on a minute… Agatha!” he called out to the back office, “can we get some more shower tokens out here, please, love?”

“Just be a minute,” Mr Musgrave smiled. “So you were saying… You’ve been filming on the beach?”

“Well, trying to. There’s a guy keeps turning up – seems to be on some kinda sabotage mission or something. Every time we’re out, he appears out of nowhere and spoils the shots.”

“Hmm…” Mr Musgrave said, lifting his dark green tartan cap slightly and scratching his dark salt-and-pepper curls. “Wears glasses? Goes round with an Alsatian?”

“That’s the one,” Scott nodded.

Mr Musgrave sighed. “That’ll be Mr Bambury. All I can do is apologise for his behaviour, I’m afraid. I heard he’d made a nuisance of himself with another film crew up this way some years ago, too. They were staying in the hotel down the road a bit, doing a documentary about shipwrecks off the British coast, they were.”

“You talking about that puffed-up old windbag next door?” Mrs Musgrave said rhetorically, suddenly appearing in the front office with a box jangling with shower tokens. She was a petite woman and wore a green polo shirt with the campsite logo to match her husband’s. Her short brown hair was showing signs of grey at the edges and her crow’s feet looked as though they’d been etched more by burden than laughter.

“That man made our lives a living hell here when me and Marcus here applied to open up the campsite,” she added. “He was a local councillor at the time – blocked us at every turn, even though the place used to be a holiday spot years before we bought it. Comes from a privileged family – and he were in the Air Force for a time, wasn’t he, Marcus? – so as far as he’s concerned, everyone should jump into line when he throws his weight about.”

“He lives the other side of the site in his great big house – Bambury Lodge,” Mr Musgrave continued. “His family used to own all the land around here – hence the name of the bay. They got into a bit of strife years back and had to sell a lot of the land to pay off their debts. But somehow, he still seems to think he owns the place – doesn’t he, Agatha?” She nodded, her face grim. “And he’s not short of a bob or two, either, I can tell yer.”

“Even now he comes round – after all the years we’ve been here – trying to make life difficult for us,” Mrs Musgrave added. “We just try to ignore him. Not always an easy task. Anyway, love, I’m behind with me jobs on site today, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I make myself scarce.”

“She’s always on the go, that one,” Mr Musgrave said, making light as she handed him the box of tokens and disappeared.

“Yep, he’s a proper pest, that Mr Bambury,” Mr Musgrave went on as he turned back to Scott and tugged the brim of his cap tighter. “Agatha’s cousin, Jim, works here on the site quite a bit – self-employed, like – he’s the one with the Mr Fixit van you’ve probably seen about the place. Anyway, he’s tried shooing him off many a time. Jim’s got a heart of gold – when you get to know him, like – although he can be rather…” he turned around to check that his wife wasn’t within earshot, “well, ‘brusque’ sometimes,” he added, lowering his voice. “So he’ll scare most people off if there’s trouble. But Mr Bambury? Well, he’s an obstinate old bugger, and a fair match for Jim with that mutt of his in tow.”

Mr Musgrave tipped a handful of coins onto the counter and shuffled them idly as he spoke. “Always walking his dog around the place, is Mr Bambury, fouling it up. Just as well this is an adult-only site – if we had kids around, I’d be worried about them stepping in it all the time – awful stuff! There’s not much we can do about it, though. Everyone who lives the other side of the site has right of way down to the beach.”

“The path that passes behind our area of the site, by the woods?” Scott said.

“That’s right. Jim sometimes finds Mr Bambury straying off the path, though, and having a little wander round the site, decorating the place with his dog’s offerings… I think the only one of us who’s ever had the guts to get one over on the old bugger is our Bonnie – the one who was here just now with her mates… We had a bit of trouble with her when she were young,” Mr Musgrave went on, lowering his voice a notch. “Her Mum and Dad were going through a divorce, like, so she came to stay with us. Unfortunately, Mr Bambury was being a proper nuisance at the time, and I think my poor little niece found it all a bit too much. Saw his car on the outskirts of town one day and stuck a penknife in his tyres. He came round to complain, of course, and she denied it. But we knew from the look of her she’d done it. Just as well there were no eye witnesses – it were her word against his. Goodness knows what her mother would’ve made of it if she’d heard about it. In any case, I reckon the whole thing must’ve put the wind up her, ‘cos we never had any trouble with her after that – not that I’m aware of, anyway… Kids, eh?” Mr Musgrave gave a light tut and sighed.

“Well,” Mr Musgrave stood up straight and continued in a more jolly tone, “as usual, I’m gas-bagging away, and there you are racking up the goose pimples. You look positively freezing, lad.”

“Yeah, and I was in such a hurry to get in the shower, I forgot my towel. I just can’t believe those girls who were in here earlier go around wearing so little. How do they manage to keep warm?”

“Ah, well, that’s tough northern lasses for yer… Right, then, lad. How many tokens would you like?” Mr Musgrave asked, pushing coins Scott’s way as he pulled some damp change out of the lining pocket of his board shorts and handed it over.

A minute later, Scott was grateful to finally get his tokens, and headed off to get a towel and shower as fast as possible.

Mr Musgrave stared after him through the plate-glass window of the reception, narrowing his eyes as he made a mental note to keep an eye on Scott Chevalier. Didn’t hurt to take precautions, what with his lovely young niece running round on site. Scott might be a pleasant enough sort, but Mr Musgrave knew what young men could be like when they fell under the spell of an attractive young lady like her. He might not have any children of his own, but he was determined to do everything in his power to protect that which he held most dear.

 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

Under cover of the shrubs on the periphery, Red had been filming round the site for a while and was starting to get a little tired. He was about to call it a day when he heard a group of girls giggling in the distance. He panned the camera round and zoomed in. There were six of them, probably in their early twenties, laughing and chatting over a bottle or two of wine as they sat outside their tents.

A growl from his stomach caused him to look at his watch.[_ Crikey! Time I packed up and got something to eat_]. He hesitated. Oh, just one last look, he said to himself, putting his eye back up to the viewfinder and checking out the party of girls again. There was one girl in particular who’d caught his attention. She had long auburn hair and a smile that just drew him in.

Red thought about what Scott had said earlier about getting into shape. He’d never felt that confident with girls, but maybe it was time for a change, to tone up a bit and start dating. He might only have been in his mid-twenties, but most of his old college friends were already in serious relationships, had got hitched, or even had a kid.

Red sighed, sitting back from the camera as he day-dreamed about what could be. He was brought out of his reverie by several nightlights coming on around the site, and as he looked up, he saw a strange sight. He learnt forward, not quite believing his eyes. It was Sally, tucked away behind one of the outlying toilet blocks. And from where Red was perched, it looked like she was getting rather friendly with some man.

Red quickly moved the camera round and twiddled the focus, trying to zoom in on who Sally was hugging. Bugger! he thought as the blurry image cleared. Sally had now disengaged from the hug and the figure had moved a step back and was hidden from view by a bush. All Red could see was a hand and arm sticking out. Mind you, things were starting to heat up a bit now, he thought as the hand tenderly stroked Sally’s shoulder.

So what do we have here, then? Red wondered. Some sort of holiday romance? A clandestine lover? Either way, Sally had definitely kept that one quiet! He leaned in further, hoping for more, as if watching a gripping movie. This was riveting stuff. Like discovering your school headmaster sneaking behind the bike sheds for a quick ciggie during break-time.

Scott’s right, Sally’s an attractive woman, all right, Red reflected as he continued to ogle through the lens, noticing how her skirt and halter-neck top perfectly framed her slender curves. It was strange – she’d been tough on him so often that he hadn’t really thought about it before. In fact, Penny was almost like her younger double. How on earth could someone so good-looking turn into such a bad-tempered old witch? he thought, hoping that Penny wasn’t going to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

The hand continued to rub Sally’s shoulder, more affectionately now, then brushed her dirty-blond hair aside and stroked her cheek as she flashed her bright, green eyes at the figure with a warm smile. Things are definitely getting interesting now! No one would ever believe me if I told them about this, he thought, but then realised he had the whole lot on film! How lucky was that?

Red was sorely tempted to move the camera to the side so he could get a better view. After all, he might be able to get a decent peek at whoever was concealed behind the bush. But he thought better of it. If he was impatient, he might mess up the shot completely. All he needed to do was wait it out. The mystery man was bound to step forward sooner or later – and then he’d have the perfect scene in the bag – as well as some juicy gossip on their beloved director.

Red watched the scene unfold, straining to hear what the two were saying. As he continued to listen, he frowned, startled at what was being said. It was too incredible to be true. Or maybe he just wasn’t hearing right. After all, he was only just within earshot. Either way, he could tell by the body language that things were starting to hot up – but not in a good way now. Sally pushed the hand away from her face and began to raise her voice. She looked around her, as if anxious that her cries might carry and be heard from what was obviously their hidey-hole behind the toilet block.

 

Red was deep in concentration as he continued to zoom in for the best shot, when he was suddenly accosted.

“‘Oi! What’re you doin’, lurking in the bushes with that camera?” came a gruff voice from his side. Red knew from the rough hand that grabbed him by the shoulder that he wasn’t man enough to take his accuser on. Not that he would ever venture to get into a physical altercation if he could possibly avoid it.

A large, beefy hand swung him around, and he found his nose up against a stubbly-faced man with shaven hair. Red couldn’t help thinking he looked like the sort that had spent some heavy time in jail.

“I’m… I’m just taking shots for our TV show. I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t – well, nothing dodgy, anyway,” Red whimpered, hoping the thug was going to stop scrunching up his collar and let him go. He clutched at the camera, hoping the lout wasn’t going to attempt to break that, too.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” came an indignant voice from behind Red. It was Sally. And the force of her voice was so imposing that the ruffian immediately let Red go.

“He was skulking about the bushes here. It’s not normal. We’ve got young women on the site here,” the large man said when he saw Sally’s expression. “I was making sure he wasn’t one of them paedo-wotsits.”

And I bet you’d know just what one of those looks like, thought Sally, as she stood there with her hands on her hips, glowering at the man. Red was just glad it wasn’t him she was mad at. She could cut a person like him in two with that laser-beam stare of hers, the mood she was in today.

Sally glanced down at the man’s navy-blue polo shirt. On the chest was a logo in the shape of an X, made up of a hammer and screwdriver, and below it was the name ‘Mr Fixit’. No doubt employed to do work on the site – although a trifle late in the day, Sally thought.

“Well, Mr Fixit, Red here is working for me,” Sally retorted. “And if he’s ‘one of them paedo-wotsits’, I’ll take full responsibility. We have full permission to film here on the site. So if you have any issues with my film crew, you can come and see me personally. I’m camped over there,” she pointed with an authoritative finger.

Mr Fixit was growing visibly impatient with her lecture now. “We’ve hired the whole section so we get some privacy while we’re working,” she continued. “And we’d like to keep it that way.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mr Fixit replied in a sarcastic, posh voice, as if defiantly addressing a school mistress. “Now, if you’ve finished your little speech, some of us have got proper work to be doing.” And with that, the workman strode off – conversation over.

Cor! That was intense, thought Red, heaving a sigh of relief as Mr Fixit headed for the toolbox in his truck nearby.

“God, I don’t know why we picked this site,” muttered Red. “Maybe we should’ve picked somewhere more…”

“Look!” Sally snapped at Red. He jumped, not expecting her to turn on him. He swung round to see that her laser-beam stare was still powered up and ready for deployment. “Just make sure you keep away from any more raving lunatics, will you? I’ve had it up to here with annoying locals today. We’re never going to finish the shoot at this rate.” And without further discussion, she stomped off.

Red gritted his teeth. From what he could see, Sally had been acting like the biggest raving lunatic of them all today. Why was it she made him feel so completely incompetent lately? Here he’d been, going round the area trying to do good by using his initiative and taking some extra shots, and all she could do was criticise. It was worse than being back at home, with his bully-boy stepfather.

Red’s fingers tightened around his camera, his lucid blue eyes still flashing with resentment as he watched her stride away into the distance. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that he wasn’t going to play second fiddle to people like her forever.

 

 

CHAPTER 4

 

The waves rolled gently in as Scott and Penny watched the sun begin to slip below the horizon from their vantage-point on the dunes.

“Haven’t seen yer mum all evening,” Scott said, breathing in the salty air as he looked across at her. Her skin was captivatingly soft against the moonlight. And although she had her fair hair plaited back tonight, the sea breeze still managed to find stray wisps framing her face on which to play as she sat there taking in the peaceful surroundings.

“No, she wasn’t feeling well,” she said, reluctant to break the calm with words. “Don’t know what’s wrong. I got back from town and we ended up having one of our little arguments.”

“Yeah? What about?”

“Oh, the usual kind of thing. Just a stupid spat, really. I was just a bit miffed because she’d sent me into town when I could’ve been on set.” Scott nodded understanding. “I should’ve just kept my mouth shut,” Penny sighed. “Red warned me Mum was in a foul mood when I got back to the site. She must’ve been feeling pretty sick, though, because she didn’t even want anything to eat.” Penny regretted arguing with her mother now. It all seemed so insignificant – the kind of mother-daughter thing that was apt to play out. Working so closely together hadn’t always been plain sailing.

“Mum’s in her tent sleeping it off now. She’ll probably wake up in the morning and it’ll be like it never happened… Anyway, talking of sleep, I’m getting pretty tired myself. And, we’d best head back while there’s still a bit of light.”

They got up and headed along the sandy path back to the site. “Your mum was hard on Red as well today. He reckoned she just about tore a strip off him earlier,” Scott continued. “Poor fella.”

“Oh, I don’t know what’s wrong,” Penny sighed. “But she’s definitely been worse lately. Sometimes I try to talk to her about things, but it’s like she’s got this tough shield around her – like no one can get in. I know she had Gran to help bring me up while she was carving out her career, but I think being a single parent has hardened her a bit over the years. My father was never around, you see – he was in the forces, travelled around a lot with his work – so she’s had to make some tough sacrifices along the way.”

“But then again, she seems like a tough lady to me… With a hint of class,” he added with a smile, “just like her daughter.”

“Hey, what do you mean – a hint of class?” she jibed, nudging him in the ribs.

The forest canopy grew dense overhead as they turned off the dune path and walked through the woods. “Amazing how dark it is once you get beneath the trees,” Penny said, glad for the low-lights dotted along the path. “I always think forests are so spooky at night.”

“Don’t worry,” Scott said, affectionately grabbing hold of her hand and putting an arm round her shoulder, “I’ll protect you.”

Penny nudged him away. “Unhand me, young knight,” she said with a playful smile, putting her hands into her fleece pockets and hugging the garment to her. “You know what I said about having relationships with people you work with. Let’s just…”

“… just be friends?” he smiled back, repeating the line she’d spun him the day before. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure,” she nodded decisively.

“Ah, well, I suppose you’re right,” he said, giving a light shrug. “Can’t blame a bloke for tryin’, though.”

“Besides,” she added, “we barely know each other really. Having dinner with you is one thing. Having… well, anything else,… is another. In any case, I’ve seen you checking out those other women on the site. You know, that hen party or whatever they are.”

“Huh? There’s nothing going on there,” Scott said, brushing her comment aside. “Anyway, a fella can look, can’t he?”

“Well, you’ll just have to look at me as well, then, won’t you? Mum always says it’s better never to get involved. You think filming is going to last forever, but it’s over before you know what’s hit you, she says. And then where will you be?”

“Free to go out together?” he joked.

“You certainly are a character,” Penny laughed. She couldn’t deny, Scott definitely had a handsome allure and an easy, disarming quality. Perhaps too disarming, she thought. She’d only ever fallen in love once before – but she’d fallen hard – and when the affair ended, she was determined never to go through that kind of pain again.

Since then, she’d prided herself on having more self-control than her peers when it came to men. She’d watched friends getting in too deep too soon, then having their hearts broken – and all the while, she remained safely on the sidelines. In that regard, her mother had been her role model. All the more because she was a single parent, Sally had always been determined not to take up with just anyone. And, although Penny wasn’t in the same situation as her mother, she had learnt enough from her not to succumb to temptation just because a handsome young man threw a few compliments your way or asked you out to dinner.

“Anyway,” Penny continued in a good-natured vein, “I’ve been warned about you!”

‘Warned’?” Scott frowned. “That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? And just who’s been ‘warning’ you about me, then?”

“Frank’s assistant, Dorian. He told me all about you,” she said, her green eyes twinkling playfully now.

“Dorian? What, that old fossil? He’s probably picked up some stories from Frank and twisted them out of all recognition. So, according to Dorian, what am I? Some sort of Casanova?” Penny raised her eyebrows and gave a light shrug in silent reply.

Scott threw his hands up in the air. “Oh, that’s just great,” he said as they approached his campervan on the edge of the site.

In the dim light given off by the low-lights, they noticed a panel van nearby with the name ‘Mr Fixit’ on the side. Scott and Penny watched him as he returned to the vehicle and put a tool box in the back.

“Working late!?” Scott said, trying to strike up conversation, curious as to what he could be possibly working on at this hour.

“The place don’t fix itself, do it?” he replied in a gruff voice, slamming the back door shut.

Abruptly, the workman walked round to the driver-side door, got in and drove off.

“He’s a bundle of joy, isn’t he?” Penny said.

“A man of few words. Just as well. I can hardly understand anything he says.”

“He’s just got a strong local accent, that’s all. You’ll get used to it all – well, maybe. Sometimes even I can’t understand people from other parts of the UK.”

“I’m glad you said that. I thought it was just me.”

“When I was at university, I studied with a boy from Liverpool – that’s up in the north west. Fazakerley, he said he was from. Talked like the clappers and his accent was so strong, he might as well have been talking another language,” Penny said as they stood at the front of his camper.

“Well,” she said finally, “it’s getting late. I’d better turn in. Thanks for dinner tonight… And, by the way, just what was in that kebab? That meat tasted a bit… well…” How could she put it diplomatically? “… certainly different, anyway.”

“Ah…” Scott hesitated. Given Red’s less-than-enthusiastic reaction earlier that day to the idea of eating seagull, it was probably best to be economical with the truth. “Well,… it’s what I like to call… Kebab de la mer,” he replied, hoping she wouldn’t realise he’d managed to duck out of answering the question directly. “Sounds like I’ll have to work on the marinade a bit.”

“Hmm…” she said, narrowing her eyes, “I think you’d do better to work on that French accent of yours.”

“Never been much good at languages,” Scott replied, still feeling confused at her enigmatic expression. Had she seen right through him, or was she just giving him plenty of slack? Either way, he was relieved she hadn’t pressed him on the issue. He wasn’t sure how she’d react if she knew she’d been eating the bird he’d downed the previous day on set.

“Anyway, I’d better go,” she added, rubbing his arm affectionately. “I’m going to check on Mum. See how she’s feeling.”

“What? No goodnight kiss?” Scott joked as she walked away.

She turned back and flashed him a smile. “See you tomorrow, Casanova!”

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

As he entered the cold ocean the next morning, Scott felt like one of those Russians he’d heard about who cut holes in thick ice and go for a swim in the chilly waters below, wearing next to nothing. Only they seemed to love getting frozen – they even boasted about how invigorating it all was.

The water had reached the top of Scott’s legs now, and it was clear to him that he didn’t have half the mettle of the ice-loving Russians. Just close your eyes and throw yourself in, he thought. The next moment, he was regaining his breath after the icy shock of diving in head-first, and paddling with his surfboard into the North Sea.

Ever since he’d arrived in England, he’d been itching to get a bit of surfing in. He’d been lucky enough to have what Red called some ‘half decent summer weather’ so far since they’d arrived on site, but every morning, Scott had gone out, only to stare out from the top of the dunes with his board and feel disheartened by what he saw. Oh, the pristine beach and the rippling water had been beautiful, all right. But where was the swell? He’d been dreading the thought that he might end up spending the rest of his days in England without catching a single wave. How on earth would he cope?

But this morning, all that had changed. He’d been half expecting disappointment once again, but the optimist in him urged him to turn up at the beach anyway and see what was on offer. Fortunately, it had paid off. As he hit the dunes, he’d smiled with joy and relief – even if they weren’t the greatest breaks in the world.

And now here he was, his blood freezing in his veins as he swam out to wait for a wave.

Half an hour later, he was hovering about on the water having only managed to catch a few limp breaks. And by now, it was clear: the sea was flattening. Might as well give it a miss, he thought, finally heading back to shore.

He forced himself to be grateful for the little surfing he’d managed to get in. It was better than nothing. And he had to admit that he did feel more refreshed than when he’d woken up – a dip in the ocean was a great cure for what seemed to be endless jetlag. Hmm… I’m starting to sound like those Russians now, he thought.

As soon as he got onto the sands, a biting wind blew off the sea and whipped across his back, cutting into his kidneys. Bugger! Forgot to bring a towel to wrap round me again! he thought, wondering how he’d managed to leave home without packing a wetsuit. He made a mental note to drive into town and look for one as soon as possible. He might not be able to wear one on set, but these early-morning ice-dunks were going to be a killer if he didn’t get some protection.

He hugged the board close to his side, deciding he’d have to adopt a bootcamp-style approach to beat the cold in the meantime. Run back up to the site as quickly as possible, lunge into a ridiculously-challenging amount of press-ups to warm up his muscles, then jump into a hot shower to massage life back into his frozen kidneys.

Probably shouldn’t spend too long cosying up to the nozzle this morning, though, he thought as he sprinted up the path from the beach. He’d end up being late on set; and after Sally’s foul mood yesterday, he certainly didn’t want to be the one to set her off today.

But as he reached his campervan, and slid open the side door to grab out his towel and washbag, he heard a shrill cry close by.

What the…? His head shot up. He turned his head, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound. It was coming from the other side of the camper, where the crew’s tents were pitched. Instinctively, he dropped the board in the open camper doorway and ran around the front, towards the cry.

Red was returning from the toilet block and rushing over, sensing the urgency. The two exchanged alarmed glances before Scott threw back the door-flap to Sally’s tent. Sally lay there on her camp bed, still and serene, a pale bluish tinge to her skin, with Penny crouched at her side.

Penny looked round, her face contorted with anguish, then turned back to stare at her mother. Scott dashed inside, and was straight at Penny’s side. Sally looked like she’d been dead for hours, but Scott lifted her wrist all the same, feeling for a pulse. He glanced back at Red, now standing in the doorway open-mouthed, looking horrified at the sight of Sally’s ashen skin.

“She’s gone, mate,” Scott said. He might not know what the hell had happened, but it was clear there was nothing he or anyone else could do now.

Turning back to Penny, he put an arm around her shoulder. He looked at Sally’s blank pallid expression and said softly, “I’m sorry. She’s gone.”

 

 

CHAPTER 6

 

The late-morning skies were turning steely-grey, looking like they were threatening rain as Scott stepped off the woodland path, heading for the beach. Penny was sitting on the dunes ahead with only a short-sleeved top on, seeming oblivious to the cool wind that was picking up.

“Thought I’d find you here,” he said in a gentle voice, breaking into her thoughts. She looked round and wiped away the moistness around her eyes as Scott perched up quietly beside her.

“Y’know, it doesn’t seem real,” she said after a time. “One minute Mum’s all right – and the next, she’s gone. How can that be? What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, not sure how to comfort her. “The cops didn’t say much, other than it was an accident. Carbon monoxide poisoning from the camp stove. Not as uncommon as you might think, they reckoned.”

“I never thought accidents happened to my mother. She always seemed to have everything so… organised. Like there was never any room for anything like that to happen.”

Scott put a gentle arm around her and brushed away the stray strands of hair that were being blown into her eyes by the wind. This time she didn’t reject his attention as she had done the previous evening.

“If it’s any consolation,” Scott said gently, “I know what you’re going through – well, sorta… Mum died a few years ago – cancer – the ‘Big C’, my granddad always calls it. Still seems like yesterday sometimes.”

He looked out across the ocean and brooding sky as Penny nuzzled in to his embrace, needing the comfort he was offering right now. “What I’m trying to say is, I know the feelings never really go away, but it won’t always feel this bad, believe me.”

They sat there for a while longer, mesmerised by the darkening, ebbing waves before a chill wind whipped up and broke the mood.

“God, I must’ve been sitting here all morning,” she said, trying to shake herself out of her stupor and snap back into reality.

Scott glanced down to notice she was covered in goose-bumps. “Jeez, look at your arms,” he said, nobly taking off his vivid-blue fleece jacket and throwing it over her shoulders.

“Thanks,” she said, pulling the fleece around her. “Scott,” she continued thoughtfully, “I know Mum’s gone, but I want to carry on working. She would’ve wanted to see this project through, so I’ve decided – I’m going to stay on and work with the crew, get the job finished. In any case, I’ve finished my degree now, so I’ve got my qualifications – well, almost – my results won’t come through for a while yet.”

“Are you sure about this?” Scott said, creasing his brow.

“Quite sure,” she nodded, lifting her chin and adopting an air of determination. “Anyway, it’ll keep my mind occupied. There’s no use moping around. I’m not going to bring Mum back, no matter what I do. I’m going to have to face that fact some time – might as well be now.”

“Well… if Frank doesn’t mind,” he said tentatively. “Red called him earlier and told him the news.” But as far as Scott was concerned, there was no way Penny was ready to go back to work right now. It was strange. Somehow he felt like he was one of his pop-psychology aunts, wanting to tell her she was in the ‘denial phase of the grieving process’ or something. But he knew advice like that wasn’t going to hit the mark with the state of mind she was in.

Scott noticed the skies continuing to darken. “Come on, we’d better get you back to the site,” he said, getting up now.

Penny looked up and nodded. “I’ll call Frank and talk to him – tell him I want to carry on,” she said, trying to pull up her resolve again. “I’ve got a few family calls to make, in any case,” she added as she stood and brushed sand off her jeans.

Scott watched her as she headed towards the path above the dune, looking concerned. If it was up to him, there’s no way he’d let Penny carry on working. After all, her mother’s spirit had barely left the body. But it was a free world. All he could do now was be there for her and hope Frank would override her decision and talk some sense into her.

 

 

CHAPTER 7

 

“Are you sure you wanna do this?” Scott said as he helped Penny and Red hike the equipment to the woods to do a filming session later that day.

“Quite sure, thank you,” Penny said. Red and Scott gave each other knowing looks behind her back. Red shrugged. What could anyone do? She was one determined gal – just like her mother.

“Anyway, I spoke with Frank. I told him Red and I could keep things going for a while up here, but he’s on about sending Dorian up shortly. In the meantime, we might as well get down to business while the weather’s clear.”

Scott couldn’t get over the fickleness of the weather. The lunchtime rain shower was now over and blue skies were miraculously poking through again.

They came to a quiet clearing in the woods some way off the main path. “This looks good,” Scott said, dropping their kit and pulling out a tarpaulin which he could rig up as a fly tent. They’d agreed it would look good in the background while he ‘did his bushman thing’ as Red called it.

“This’ll make a nice change from freezing me rocks off at the beach,” Scott smiled as they all went about setting things up. Penny looked at him and raised an eyebrow at his turn of phrase.

“Well, in a moment, we’re going to fillet that fish we caught earlier, cook it and garnish it with a handful of freshly-picked, foraged leaves,” Scott said, addressing the camera some time later. He’d been transformed now from hunky spear-fisherman to Akubra hat-wearing bushman. Despite his smile, he cringed inwardly, realising that a couple of the fish they had in their cool box were ones Penny had bought from the fish market in town the day before. Still, he had to agree that they would look better on camera, what with the fish he’d caught having a great big harpoon hole right through the middle.

Scott wore a hardy pair of dark blue shorts and a light blue outdoor shirt, with the sleeves rolled up and his shark’s-tooth necklace peeking through on his chest. Red zoomed in to capture his enthusiastic smile. He’s a natural on camera, he thought. He’d already filmed him putting up the tarp tent and was happy to note that things were going smoothly for a change.

“But in order to do all that, we need to have a sharp knife,” Scott went on, his blue eyes keen and bright. “So now I’m going to show you how to sharpen your knife the bushman’s way.” He turned to pick up his knife from the table then faced the camera again. “Y’know, my grandfather back in Queensland always says that a blunt knife is an unsafe knife. That’s because you’ve gotta use more force to cut with it, so there’s more risk of comin’ a cropper.”

Scott pulled out his sharpening stone and secured it onto a fallen tree branch with a couple of small nails. He had his head down, focussing on the task at hand, when he was unexpectedly jolted out of his concentration by a tramping rustle of leaves approaching close by. The crew turned their heads to see who could be coming through here. Probably some kids. After all, they were off the beaten track. No doubt they’d come in here looking for somewhere to play.

But they soon realised they were wrong.

Red let out a defeated sigh when he saw Mr Bambury emerge from the bushy undergrowth, pulled along by that ferocious-looking dog of his. Can’t we ever get a day’s filming done in peace?

Penny put down the sound equipment she was holding, clearly annoyed. “And just what do you think you’re doing here?” she said, indignant at the man’s wilful pestering – a feeling which seemed to be magnified somehow, now that her mother was dead.

Despite his concern, Red decided to keep the camera rolling. If this hotted up, the footage would be priceless.

“Look, why don’t you just go home and leave us to do our job? We’re not hurting anyone,” Scott continued, trying to diffuse the situation peaceably. Having this guy shooting his mouth off and making a nuisance of himself was the last thing Penny needed.

“I have every right to walk my dog in these woods,” he retorted.

“Well, from what I can gather,” Penny fearlessly took a step towards him, determined not to back off, “you’re not exactly welcome around here. And, in any case, right of way is via the woodland path.” She pointed an angry finger behind him.

The man lurched forward, his Alsatian growling, as though he were an extension of the man’s own will. Penny jumped back, avoiding the sharp, snarling fangs and hot breath of the dog. It was clear Mr Bambury wasn’t going to leave without getting into some kind of aggressive tangle with them.

“Look out!” Scott shouted. And before the man knew what was happening, a knife was whistling past his ear and had thudded into the tree next to him. Mr Bambury swivelled around and gaped in horror at the knife, just a hair’s breadth away. “Oops! My mistake!” Scott said, feigning contrition. “I could’ve sworn I saw a deadly spider behind you, just about to pounce.”

“You could’ve injured me with that knife,” the man flustered. “I’ll have you up before the magistrates with this kind of delinquent behaviour,” he bellowed, trying to adopt a semblance of control.

“Well, we sure don’t want to injure anyone, now do we?” Scott replied, calmly eyeing up the dog. To Mr Bambury’s astonishment, the mutt’s fangs retracted and he suddenly started whimpering, as though he was picking up on Scott’s thoughts and knew he meant business.

The man reluctantly stomped off, wagging his finger indignantly. “I’ll be reporting you to the authorities. Mark my words,” he continued ranting, clutching at straws as he sensed defeat.

“Hasn’t that guy got a hobby or something?” Scott said, trying to make light of the encounter.

“Blimey! That was fantastic!” Red beamed. He’d probably got the best shot of his fledgling career in filming – talk about reality TV! He felt like some journalist who’d shot one of those million-dollar celebrity photos. Maybe this wasn’t worth as much, but it was a start, all the same.

“Err… Just so you know, Scott, there aren’t any deadly spiders in England,” Red said with a smile on the side of his face.

“Oh, really? What? Not even little ones?” he replied, walking over to the tree where his knife was embedded.

Penny whipped round, irritated at their carefree attitude. “I don’t know what rules there are in the Australian Outback, Scott Chevalier,” she berated, turning on him now that Mr Bambury was gone, “but you do know that in this country, he could have you up for… I don’t know… intimidation or assault with a deadly weapon or something, don’t you?”

Scott and Red exchanged glances, their sense of lightness well and truly dampened now. Under normal circumstances, Penny might have found the whole thing quite amusing, but now that her mother was gone, she somehow felt the weight of responsibly for getting things right on set.

“I don’t agree with that man’s tactics,” Penny continued with her tirade, “but you could be putting this whole project in jeopardy. You know that, don’t you?”

As far as Scott was concerned, he’d started off being diplomatic, but Mr Bambury hadn’t listened to reason. He’d come looking for trouble, and that’s what he’d got. But there was no way he was going to argue with Penny about it, not at a time like this.

“Fair point,” Scott said, sharing a look with Red as he pulled the knife out of the tree.

Penny looked up at the skies which were once again gloomy and threatening rain. “I know Mr Bambury’s not likely to come back now, but let’s call it day, shall we?”

The lads nodded obediently and packed up as quickly as possible.

 

“Do you reckon that guy’s stalking us, or what?” Red said as they wandered back to base. “Surely it can’t be a coincidence he’s around every corner. How on earth did he know we were tucked away in the forest there?”

“I don’t know,” said Penny, “but I’ve got too much on my mind to think about that idiot at the moment.” Red went silent, not sure what to say. Perhaps it was better not to talk about him. It would only stir her up.

They reached the edge of the woods and went along the path to Scott’s campervan on the periphery. “I spoke with my aunt – Mum’s sister – earlier,” Penny went on, “and she’s going to be organising the funeral. Apparently, Mum took care of the arrangements a long time ago,” she said, looking sombre. “Can you believe it? I’m not sure I could ever be that organised.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Red said as they reached Scott’s van. “You’re more like your mother than you realise.”

Penny attempted a smile. “Look, I hope you guys don’t mind, but I could do with some time alone this evening. Get some rest and all that.”

“No worries,” said Scott. “You don’t fancy a bite to eat first?”

“No, thanks. I’ve been feeling a bit queasy all day.”

“Righto. I’ll come and check on you in the morning,” he added as she gave a limp wave and walked off round the front of his camper to her tent.

“Crikey, Scott, you didn’t feed her any of that seagull last night, did you?” Red said under his breath, hoping she was out of earshot.

“Ah, she’s just got an iffy tummy ‘cos she’s upset about her mum,” he said, brushing off the assertion. “Fancy a bite to eat yourself? I’ve got some leftovers from last night’s meal.”

“I’m not sure I’d trust you to cook for me, even if it wasn’t meat,” Red smiled.

“All right, I get the message,” Scott replied good-naturedly.

“Anyway, it’s been a long day. We might be able to forget things for a while when we’re working, but we all need time to process things.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Scott nodded thoughtfully and patted him on the back. “See you in the morning, then, Red.”

 

 

CHAPTER 8

 

The next morning, Scott awoke with the birds as dawn broke, and was glad to see that the rain that had been hammering on his campervan roof all night had now cleared.

He sat up in bed, put the gas stove on and brewed up a strong coffee. He’d need it again this morning. Just how long was this jetlag going to last? he thought, eager to see what the surf might be like today, even if it was bound to chill him to the bone again.

But when he got down to the beach, he was disappointed once again.

Flat as a bloody pancake!

He ditched his shortboard in the sand in frustration and threw his large towel on top, wondering whether he should make the most of the situation with a brisk dip in the ocean anyway, to get his blood pumping and freshen him up.

It was strange, he thought. Spending so much time out in the bush in northern Queensland, he’d never considered himself to be lily-livered. But England definitely required a certain type of toughness – just a different kind than he was used to. And while he was here, it was clear he was going to have to knuckle under and toughen himself up to the elements.

Just as he was about to head off to the shore for a swim, he saw Penny jogging down the path from the campsite. “You’re up early,” Scott said as she approached wearing a light grey tracksuit and cerise-pink baseball cap, her hair tied up in a ponytail.

“Couldn’t sleep. Thought a run might clear my head a bit, put me in the right frame of mind for the day.” Scott nodded. “Fancy coming along?”

“Sure! Why not?” he smiled.

Penny glanced down at his feet. “Oh, but you haven’t got anything on your feet.”

“No worries! The bottom of my feet are like leather.” Penny creased her forehead. She wouldn’t have guessed it from looking at the top of his feet. His skin seemed so soft. Mind you, he did seem to go barefoot whenever he could, she thought.

“Even so, you won’t want to be running on the path – your legs’ll be sore from the impact by tomorrow if you’re not used to it.”

Scott shrugged. “Plenty of soft sand to run on here.”

“Well, come on then!” she said suddenly, zooming off.

 

Half an hour later, they were sitting on the dunes, catching their breath. Scott had grabbed the large blue towel off his surfboard and wrapped it around himself to keep warm as they watched the odd dog-walker or jogger mosey by along the shoreline.

“You know, I’ve been awake all night thinking about Mum, and something’s been bugging me,” Penny said thoughtfully as she took a swig from her water-bottle.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“Well, she was supposed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. From that camp stove, right?” Scott nodded. “But when I spoke with Mum earlier that evening – before I came round to see you – the camp stove was in the little porch section of her tent, just where I’d seen it earlier. So how did it get inside the tent?”

“Well, maybe she woke up and got hungry after you left and brought it in to cook up grub.”

“Yes, but she was stressed out. Said she had a splitting headache and was going to have a rest,” she said, offering her water-bottle to Scott.

“Well, people can change their mind – especially women,” he smiled, but Penny didn’t return the expression.

“But that’s the thing. She said she’d taken some tablets to help her sleep. When I left you that night, I went to check up on her. It was dark in the tent, so I didn’t want to disturb her. But I could tell she was sound asleep – she must’ve been out for the count.”

Scott gulped back some water from Penny’s bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, pondering the situation as he watched a would-be surfer standing on the dunes checking out the waves – or lack of them. Another disappointed customer.

“I’m sure there’s an innocent explanation. Are you absolutely sure the stove wasn’t inside the tent when you checked in on her? Memory can play tricks on you sometimes,” he asked.

“Quite sure,” she nodded.

“So, what’re you saying? You don’t think someone purposely put that stove in there, do you?” he asked, handing back the water-bottle. But as he did, he could see that Penny’s expression was stone-cold serious.

“You do know what it means if you’re right, don’t you?… That someone put that stove into your mum’s tent fully intending to kill her.” He fixed his eyes on Penny, but her jaw was set firm, her gaze unwavering.

Scott leant back and sighed, trying to take everything in. He looked up at the sky which was now turning a more genial shade of blue. The situation was bad enough already that Penny’s mum had died. But to say someone had tried to kill her? It was a pretty radical statement.

“OK, so supposing your Mum was murdered. Who on earth would want to harm her?” Scott countered.

It was here that Penny felt her theory crack, and it showed in her expression. Her mum was generally well respected, but she definitely put people’s backs up now and then – more so lately, too, for some reason. Penny had even quarrelled with her more than normal. But would anyone really kill someone over a simple falling out? When she came to think of it, it just didn’t seem plausible.

“Well, what about that Mr Bambury? The one with the dog. Didn’t you say he’d argued with Mum again when you went down to the beach to film?” She might’ve been clutching at straws, but she had to start somewhere.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Scott was surprised she was taking his question seriously. She was obviously doing her best to rustle up a suspect. “Mind you, he just seems like an old windbag to me,” Scott said. “More bark than bite if you ask me – his dog, too.”

“And what about that workman? Mr Fixit – the one we saw the night Mum died?”

Crikey! She’s on a roll now! Scott thought. “Mr Musgrave, the site owner, said he’s related to his missus,” he said. “Jim, his name is. Doesn’t look much like her, though, does he? He’s got a right shifty mug on him, eh?”

“Didn’t you say Red had a run-in with him that evening Mum died, too?”

“Yeah, apparently your mum stood up for him and gave Mr Fixit a real tongue-lashing. You don’t reckon he’d do her in over something like that, though, do ya?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Penny said, suddenly feeling dejected now that she’d run out of credible suspects. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had a few invitations to spend time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.”

Scott creased his brow at that last comment. “Look,” he said, feeling concerned for her, “I reckon you’re gonna tie yourself in knots thinking about all this stuff… You know, you could point the finger at virtually anyone when you come down to it. Red seemed to get on all right with her, but he felt she was pretty hard on him sometimes. I mean, even you’ve had cross words with her.”

As soon as that last sentence was out of his mouth, he realised it was too late to take it back. Not the best thing to remind Penny of right now, he thought, remembering that she had told him she’d argued with her mother the afternoon before she’d died. They were some of the last words the two would have spoken together.

“Oh, I get it,” Penny said, promptly standing up on the dune, feeling indignant. “Just whose side are you on here, Scott?” She brushed the sand off the back of her clothes and glared at him.

“I didn’t mean…” he said.

“I’m not going to stand around here being treated like I’m a prime suspect. If my mother has been killed, I’m sure I can work things out myself – with or without your help, Scott Chevalier,” she added, before storming off in a huff.

Jeez, why didn’t I just keep my big mouth shut?

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he muttered, jogging after her. He caught up with her and put his hands on her shoulder. She was like a wild horse that needed reigning in.

Penny gradually slowed her gait and he walked round to face her. “Look,” he said, adopting a gentle tone in an attempt to calm her, “if you seriously think your mum’s been murdered, why don’t you give the cops a ring – see what they think?”

She hung her head, feeling a well of tears she’d held back now coming to the fore. He raised her chin with a hand and brushed at the corner of her eye.

“You’re right,” she nodded softly. “I’ll call the police as soon as we get back.”

He put an affectionate arm round her shoulder as they walked along the path at the top of the dunes, the breeze wafting her hair. “I’ve got an uncle who’s a cop back in Australia,” he said. “Never exactly struck me as the super-intelligent type. But if he can solve cases, so can we. I’m sure we can figure this thing out together. I mean, how hard can it be?”

Despite his attempts to reassure her, he wasn’t totally convinced by Penny’s theory that someone had killed her mother. Not only could her memory have been leading her astray, but he knew from experience that it was easier to occupy the mind with other issues rather than to face the pain of someone close dying. But maybe it was better to just let her run with the idea if it helped her to cope for the time being. It could even turn out that she was right.

“Perhaps the police could come and take some fingerprints or something – if they don’t think my theory’s nuts, that is,” Penny said, stopping along the dune path. “I haven’t been into Mum’s tent since she died – haven’t been able to face it. So nothing should’ve been disturbed.”

Scott nodded. “Wonder what time it is. I bet Red’ll be up by now. Probably wondering where we are.”

“Before we go, I just wanted to say thanks, Scott – for being a friend, I mean,” she said thoughtfully, then looked over at the beach. “Hey, don’t forget your surfboard.”

“Oh, I’d never forget that!” he replied running off to fetch it. As he pulled it out of the sand, he turned to look at Penny up above the dunes and felt a pang of concern. If this theory about her mother was right after all, what would it mean for the rest of them?[_ Was Sally’s death just a one-off, or was someone out to get the whole crew?_]

“Come on!” Penny called out from the path, snapping him out of his thoughts. He moved the towel round his back onto one shoulder, put the board under his arm and ran back towards her. For the time being at least, he’d keep his thoughts to himself and an eye on the crew. Penny had enough weighing her down at the moment as it was.

 

 

CHAPTER 9

 

Scott threw on his bush hat, grabbed his washbag and some clothes, his blue towel already over his shoulder as he slid his campervan door shut. He walked round the van, heading towards the toilet block when he saw Red coming back to his tent wearing an old black T-shirt with what looked like some band’s logo on. He had a large yellow-patterned towel slung over his shoulder and his curly ginger hair was darkened with dampness after his shower.

“Off to get cleaned up, I see,” Red said in greeting as they converged outside his tent. “I’m just warning you – shower’s are a bit cold this morning. Must be something wrong with their boiler. Been to check out the surf today?”

“Yeah. Not a break in sight. Penny came by, though, and we had a bit of a run round.”

“Oh, yeah? I’ve noticed you two have been getting on well,” Red said, raising his eyebrows, expecting Scott to come forward with some juicy gossip.

“Look, we’re just friends, mate,” Scott said. “I bumped into her on the beach so I went for a jog with her. She said she couldn’t sleep all night.”

“I’m not surprised. I know me and Sally had our run-ins, but I still didn’t get much kip. Poor Penny, eh?”

“Penny nearly bit my head off about something I said after our run earlier. Put my foot right in it. Strewth, she’s a little firecracker when she gets going, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, well, underneath it all, I think you’ll find she’s just upset about her mum… Anyway, you did say you liked a bit of feistiness in a woman.”

“Hmm… I did, didn’t I?” he nodded. Don’t think I thought that one through. “Women, eh?” he sighed, raising his eyebrows. “Anyway, all storms pass. She soon got over it. I’m not sure she should be carrying on with work at a time like this, though.”

“Well, she’s her mother’s daughter, all right. I don’t reckon she should be working at a time like this either. I’ve phoned Frank and told him so – but he says she’s adamant. To be honest, I don’t think he could afford it if we stopped working, anyway. Frank gives the impression to clients that the company’s made of money, but we run on a shoestring budget most of the time, so what can you do?” Red sighed. “Hey, fancy a brew?”

“Oh, I might as well have a quick slurp – the showers might’ve warmed up by the time I get to ‘em,” Scott replied, putting the towel round his shoulders now.

Red unzipped his tent flap, pulled it back and stepped inside, Scott following behind.

“What the…?” Red said in disbelief as he stepped into the tent and looked down at the table where he’d left some of his equipment. “Oh, great!” He picked up his camera and inspected it. Scott stepped around to see what he was talking about.

“Jeez. Looks like someone’s taken a hammer to it,” Scott frowned.

“Well,” he sighed, looking up at Scott, “it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing any filming for a while – this is trashed.”

“Who’d wanna do something like that, d’ya reckon?” Scott said.

“I can think of a few people,” Red said, clenching his jaw.

“Well,” Scott offered, “Penny was on about phoning the cops today. She’s got this theory her mother’s death was no accident. Reckons that camp stove wasn’t even in the tent the night she died.”

“Eh?” Red said, his mind torn between what Scott was saying and the more immediate problem with his camera. “What do you mean?” he asked, lowering his camera. “She thinks someone offed Sally? That’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it? Anyway, who on earth would want to kill her?”

“I’m not sure. But if they send someone over to dust Sally’s tent for fingerprints, they might be able to dust your camera while they’re at it.”

Dusting for fingerprints? Crikey, this must be serious, Red thought. “Err… Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said. “Mind you, I’ve just gone and put my grubby mitts all over it – probably smeared anything useful.”

“Hey,” Scott sniffed, “what’s that smell?” Red crinkled his nose, sniffing the air, too. “Jeez, mate, I think you’d better check the bottom of those slip-on shoes of yours.” Red lifted each foot in turn, checking underneath.

“Urgh!” he said, looking back up at Scott.

“I think we’ve found the culprit!” Scott said.

“Blimey! This week just gets better and better,” Red said, rolling his eyes and pulling the offending shoe off. He put it outside the tent, planning to wash it off under the shower block’s outside tap later, and sighed when he realised he’d also walked in a trail of mucky footprints.

“Uh, what’s the betting that Mr Bambury’s been round while I’ve been in the shower and got his dog to leave me a little present outside?” Red said suspiciously. “Filthy stuff!” he added, fishing a spare toilet roll out of his holdall to clean the mess up with.

“Yeah, and I shouldn’t wonder he’s let himself in and given your camera a good working over as well while he was at it,” Scott said.

“Well, if it was him, I doubt there are any prints on it – he always seems to wear those leather gloves – even when it’s hot,” Red said. He pulled a bottle of water off the table and sprinkled some onto a handful of toilet roll.

“With all this happening, it just makes me wonder whether there really is something to this theory of Penny’s. If her mum was killed by someone, that Mr Bambury’s got more motive right now than anyone else I can think of,” Scott said.

“I don’t suppose it’s any coincidence that we’ve been hassled left, right and centre by him since we got here – and now my camera’s been sabotaged. But what’s it all about? Do you think he’s just trying to warn us off?” Red said as he crouched down to wipe the floor clean.

“I don’t know, but if Sally has been killed, I reckon the rest of us could be in danger, too.”

Red looked up, suddenly apprehensive. He hadn’t thought of that.

“It’s all right for you, Scott,” he said. “What with your big knife and your catapult, and God knows what else you might have stowed away in that van of yours. If there’s a killer around, he’s not gonna go for you, is he? I mean, look at me,” he went on, looking down at his biceps, “I’m a prime target!” Red continued rubbing at the ground sheet, only more vigorously now. He might have been trying to make light with his comments, but underneath it all, he was feeling pretty anxious.

The floor clean now, Red stood up and found a plastic bag to put the soiled tissue in, then proceeded to pull out a small bottle of antibacterial cleanser and bent down to wipe some over the floor with the toilet paper.

“Err… You haven’t said anything to Penny about this, have you?” Red asked as he finished cleaning.

“Nah, thought it best not to mention anything – not just yet, at least. I think Penny’ll be calling the police about now. Let’s see what they think of this whole idea first. Until then, I reckon we should be on our guard – just in case.”

Red nodded thoughtfully. He got up and put the used tissue into the plastic bag, tied the top and put it outside the tent with his dirty shoe.

“So…” Scott said, changing tack, “is the camera fixable, d’ya reckon?”

“Not sure whether I can do anything here,” Red said, massaging antibacterial cleanser into his hands now for good measure. “I’ll need to have a closer look. I can usually fix minor repairs, but we’re travelling light for this shoot. God knows what Frank’s gonna say when he hears about this,” he added, wiping his hands dry on the towel still on his shoulder. “He’ll probably have my guts for garters, seeing as I’ve left the camera in the tent where it’s not really secure. I could kick myself. I wasn’t gone for that long.”

“Well, from now on, the expensive stuff can stay in the front seat of my van at night. I can keep an eye on it there,” Scott offered. Red nodded gratefully.

“Anyway, better leave you to it. Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for a while – what with having to clean up your shoes and take a look at that camera of yours, so I won’t worry about that cuppa for now, thanks, mate,” Scott said as he made to leave, then turned back to Red.

“Hey, I’ve gotta go to the reception to get some more shower tokens just now, and I was gonna give Frank a ring while I was there, so I tell you what… Why don’t I ask him if he can send up some spare equipment – just in case you can’t fix the camera?”

“Well, I suppose it’s a long shot, but he could have a spare camera hanging about somewhere,” Red shrugged. “Might as well ask… Are you sure you don’t mind phoning, though? You’ll be first in line for an ear-bashing.”

“Ah, don’t worry about me,” he said. “I can handle Frank.”

 

 

CHAPTER 10

 

“I’m right sorry to hear about that young lady’s mother dying,” said Mr Musgrave as he pushed a handful of shower tokens across the reception counter to Scott.

“Terrible tragedy,” Mrs Musgrave added, shaking her head slowly. “It in’t the first time we’ve had someone die from carbon monoxide poisoning on this site, though. We only had the same thing happen here last year – didn’t we, Marcus?”

Mr Musgrave nodded, his face gloomy. “Aye, we did.”

“Doesn’t seem to matter how many posters we put up warning people of the dangers. They reckon some campers bring them in at night if they get a bit chilly, like. But they’re just not made for indoor use,” Mrs Musgrave added.

“Well, Penny – the daughter of Mrs Gosling, who died – she’s not so sure it was an accident.”

“What do you mean?” Mr Musgrave frowned, exchanging glances with his wife.

“Well, it’s just a theory she’s got. Probably nothing. But she seems to think her gas stove wasn’t even in the tent earlier that evening. Reckons someone mighta moved it.”

“Eh, no, lad! She doesn’t suspect some sort of foul play, does she?” Mr Musgrave replied, his expression turning to one of concern.

“We run a respectable site here,” Mrs Musgrave said. “I don’t see how any of our campers could’ve done anything like that.”

“She’s gonna run it by the cops this morning. But it’s just a theory… Oh, can I get some change for the phone as well, please?” Scott smiled, putting a five-pound note on the counter.

“I thought all you young’uns had your own mobile phones these days,” Mr Musgrave chuckled as he opened the till on the counter and took out some coins in exchange.

Scott gave a wry smile, recalling how Rip Vanderbilt, his agent back in Australia, had given him a cellphone to use when he was back home. Scott had a landline, all right, but he was often out – either on his surfboard or visiting friends and family around the country – and wasn’t the most reliable at checking his answer-machine when he got home.

Rip would tear out what little hair he had trying to get hold of him. But when the media storm kicked off – the one that threatened to destroy Scott’s reputation – it was the last straw. Exasperated, Rip had thrust a mobile phone in his hand the moment he clapped eyes on him. After all, not being able to get hold of him at such a time wasn’t exactly helping any.

But after Scott had met up with Frank and shaken on the deal to do the TV show, he decided the phone wouldn’t be much use over the other side of the world, and the night before he caught the plane from Sydney airport, he went for a walk on the beach and tossed the pesky phone with one satisfied thrust of his arm into the sea, relieved to have an excuse to be rid of it.

“I must be a bit old-fashioned, eh?” Scott said to Mr Musgrave. “Seems to me, going travelling isn’t quite the same if you know people can ring you every five minutes… Anyway, thanks for the change.”

 

“Jesus H. Christ!” Frank hollered down the phone a few minutes later from his office in London. Scott was standing in the reception area looking out through the large plate-glass window that looked out over the campsite as he spoke on the public phone.

He rolled his eyes and pulled the phone away as Frank continued to rant about how things were “falling apart up there”.

“To be honest, I don’t think Penny should be working at a time like this anyway,” Scott said once Frank had gone off the boil and left a gap in the conversation.

“I’ve tried to talk her out of carrying on with the shoot, but I’ve known that young lady since she was a nipper, and she’s as head-strong as her mother. So I’ll leave things as they are for the minute. But I fully intend to send Dorian up as soon as I can – I’ve got him tied up in the office at the moment… Metaphorically speaking, that is.”

Shame, Scott thought. He quite liked the thought that Dorian was physically tied up – where he couldn’t annoy anyone. Frank’s ‘right hand man’ as he liked to think of himself seemed to have a knack for making people feel like he didn’t rate them that highly on the evolutionary scale – at least, that’s how Scott had experienced him in the short time he’d spent with the man before making his way up north in his camper to start shooting.

“There’s no need to send that old fossil up to babysit us,” Scott said, his voice rising a notch.

“Old fossil?” Frank paused. “Have a bit of respect. Dorian’s been in the business for donkeys’ years – knows a set like the back of his hand.”

“I didn’t mean it like that… I just…” Scott tried to back-pedal. It wasn’t that he had anything against older people – after all, his grandfather was getting on a bit now, and he was probably the person he respected the most in the world. But he did hate old attitudes. Dorian was probably only in his early fifties, yet he seemed to come from another era, with a stuck-up manner that made Scott think he must’ve had a rod shoved up where the sun don’t shine. And Scott wasn’t any kind of fashion expert, but surely no one this side of seventy wore a cravat! But when he really got down to it, what rankled him most was that Dorian had scuppered his chances with Penny. Fancy ‘warning’ her about him. Just what on earth had he told her?

“Anyway, if he’s an old fossil, what does that make me? A dinosaur?… Look, matey,” Frank continued firmly, talking into the speaker-phone as he stopped pushing the bits of paper round his cluttered desk, “I feel terrible about Sally’s death – we all do. But the show must go on, mate. We’ve gotta pull together. We can’t lose many more hours in production. We’re haemorrhaging money – especially now that it looks like I might have to fork out for another bit of equipment. Besides, we’re on a deadline here – we need to get this shoot done and dusted. You’ve got six locations to cover around the country before the end of the summer.”

Frank paused for a moment and chewed on his unlit cigar. “Look,” he said, his tone softening a little, “I’m sorry if it feels like I’m sending up a babysitter, but I can’t go leaving the set to be overseen by a bunch of young’uns – especially under the circumstances. The shoot needs an older hand at the tiller right now.”

“Yeah, all right…” Scott said, sighing inwardly, “no worries,” he added, pushing up the brim of his hat.

“In any case, it’s only a temporary solution. I’m hunting round for a replacement for Sally as we speak. Dorian’ll be back down here and outta your hair before you know it… And, by the way,” Frank said, his tone tightening again, “when’re you going to get a bloody phone of your own?”

“What’s the point? Who needs to contact me over here in England?”

“Well, I might, for one,” Frank barked. The cheeky young larrikin. “Anyway, Dorian’ll be on his way up shortly. Keep me posted on how things’re going, will ya? Sally worked for me for a long time. We’re like family in this little production company, and I wanna make sure Penny’s taken care of just the same.”

 

 

CHAPTER 11

 

“Terrible thing, when someone you love dies,” Mrs Musgrave sighed as she pushed a mop around the shower block floor. She had on a sleeveless pink-checked coverall over the top of her green site uniform and was talking to Penny as she stood at the shower block sink after her shower.

“Well, thank you for your kind thoughts,” Penny replied demurely. She wanted to be polite – after all, people meant well – but hearing people commiserate at a time like this only seemed to remind her more of how bad things were.

No one really knew how she was feeling at all, she thought as she looked up at the mirror over the sink. She was vacantly going through the motions of brushing her hair when it dawned on her that the knots were now untangled. She put down the brush, feeling empty inside and stared at the mirror which only seemed to reflect back her sadness.

Mrs Musgrave ceased her activities and leant on her mop. “Yep, that carbon monoxide poisoning’s a terrible thing,” she went on. It was obvious she wasn’t going to let the matter drop, Penny thought. “Had some poor soul die of the same thing only last year. And look,” she tapped at the wall, “we’ve got posters all over the place warning people about the dangers.”

Penny was eager to leave now, and decided she wouldn’t bother to blow-dry her hair. But when she turned and looked down, Mrs Musgrave’s mop and bucket were barring her exit on the tiled floor.

“Err… It’s a nice quiet site you’ve got here, Mrs Musgrave,” Penny said, trying to change the subject. “I thought the place would be chockfull of families at this time of year.”

“We’re adult-only here. Always seems quieter without children,” she replied, lifting her mop and dipping it in the bucket of water before continuing to push it round the floor again. “It’s not a huge site, but we’re a small crew here so we’re plenty busy all the same. Jim’s run off his feet trying to keep up with all the jobs on the site here.”

“Mr Musgrave?”

“No, not my husband – my cousin. The Mr Fixit man,” Mrs Musgrave said. Oh, yes, Penny thought. Scott mentioned he was called Jim. “You probably don’t even notice him round the place, he’s always rushing to and fro.”

“Oh, we’ve seen him all right,” Penny said, trying to hide her annoyance at the fact he’d practically threatened Red. “He was working pretty late the other night. Does he always work so late?”

“Well, he’s got no missus, see,” Mrs Musgrave replied as she finished cleaning the floor. “So if there’s work to do, he does it. He doesn’t care what time of day or night it is.” She parked her mop and pulled some items from the small cupboard along the wall nearby. Penny used the opportunity to move closer to the door. All she wanted to do now was sit down with a hot cup of tea and be on her own for a while before she went to work on set.

“Jim’s self-employed, so he doesn’t just work on our site. He’s a hard worker, that one,” Mrs Musgrave went on, snapping on a pair of yellow rubber gloves. She squirted cleaning fluid on the sink, got her head down and started wiping round the bowl with a cloth. “Well, nice talking with you, Mrs Musgrave. Must go. See you later,” Penny said quickly, grabbing the chance to make a swift exit, leaving no time for Mrs Musgrave to respond.

Mrs Musgrave turned round to see Penny’s figure disappearing out the door. She stood there, cloth in hand, shaking her head and reflecting gloomily as she stared after her.

A few moments later, her thoughts were snapped back into the present by a camper flushing the toilet and coming out to use a sink.

“Ooh, I don’t mean to pry, but I couldn’t help overhearing you talking just then,” she said in a gossipy voice. “Was that the daughter of that woman…?”

“That’s the one,” Mrs Musgrave nodded.

“Ooh, how awful!” the woman said as she put her washbag on the side and started to wash her hands.

“Hmm… I know,” Mrs Musgrave said, glancing glumily at the carbon monoxide poster before continuing to clean the line of sinks, “but these accidents will happen…”

 

 

CHAPTER 12

 

As he made his way from the reception to the shower block, Scott bumped into a girl along the path who looked familiar.

“Hey, you’re one of the guys with that filming crew, aren’t you?” she said.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he smiled, drawn in by her welcoming expression and warm, dark brown eyes.

“My name’s Bonnie. I’ve heard all about you,” she said, brushing her long, straight, auburn locks coyly behind her ear as they started to walk in unison now.

“Oh, yeah?” Scott tensed. What the hell? Had Dorian somehow gotten to her as well?

“My uncle Marcus – he runs the site here. He mentioned you and your crew were filming here,” she explained.

“Oh,” Scott said, relaxing as he recalled that he’d seen her at reception the day before last. She was the one Mr Musgrave had said used to be a tomboy and had slashed Mr Bambury’s tyres when she was a kid. Well, it certainly looks like butter wouldn’t melt now, he thought. “Sure, I remember you. Your uncle said you and your mates are on a hen holiday or something.”

“That’s right,” she answered. “They’re old friends from school but we’ve all stayed in touch one way or another. My mate’ll be the first of us to get married, so we’re having a get-together. I’m studying to be a counsellor but it’s nice to have some time off over the summer to catch up with ‘em all. Gotta go back to college in September… My uncle said you’re doing some show about campervans or something…?”

“Well, kinda. Sorta campervans, bush tucker, the outdoor lifestyle, y’know…”

“Oh, I love campervans – especially VWs… Hey, does yours have a name?”

“Err… yeah…” Scott hesitated, pushing the brim of his hat up, feeling awkward. Frank had told him the owner called the van Gerald. What sort of name was that? If it was his van, there’s no way he would give it a boy’s name – let alone pick such a bad one in the first place. Scott had hoped no one would think to ask him about it, but when Bonnie continued to gaze at him with expectant enthusiasm, he realised he was going to have to tell her what it was. “It’s err… Gerald… ah… Geraldine,” Scott finally spat out.

“Ooh, lovely,” she gushed, oblivious to Scott’s discomfort. “I know someone who’s got a bright pink one called Daphne – she had flowers painted all over it. Wish I had one like it. I just love the whole camping thing. That’s why it’s so great having an uncle with a campsite. We used to come here as a family every year when I was growing up. Now I come here every chance I can get,” she said.

[_She certainly seems a bubbly girl, _]thought Scott. “My uncle and aunt have had this site for years – ever since I was small, actually. Mum always calls it their ‘saving grace’. They lost their baby not long after they bought the place, y’see. I think my aunt always blamed that Mr Bambury next door for her losing the baby. He made things so hard for them when they moved in. She couldn’t have any kids after that. No one ever talks about it, of course. People don’t, do they? That’s one of the reasons I want to be a counsellor – to help people.”

Crikey, she must be able to breathe through her ears, Scott thought. She hasn’t stopped for breath yet. Not that he wasn’t happy to listen. She was a pretty young thing and full of spirit. “Mum said the campsite’s been their baby all these years. They’ve always taken care of it well. And my uncle’s always treated me as if I’m his own daughter.”

“I certainly get the impression he’s protective of you,” Scott said.

“Yeah, he can come across a bit gruff sometimes – especially if he thinks I’m going to get whisked off by some bloke. We’ve always been close – I suppose it’s because they never had kids of their own. Must’ve been awful, eh? Don’t know what I’d be like if I couldn’t have any. Mind you, I’m not ready to have a family just yet! I want a career first,” she paused to smile. “I love your accent, by the way.”

“Err, thanks,” he said, unsure as to whether he was meant to return the compliment. He’d just about managed to follow what she was saying, given that she had what seemed like a thick accent of her own.

A car passed over a nearby traffic hump and Scott looked up to see Penny walking out of the shower block a short distance away. She spotted Scott and thought better of approaching him. He certainly doesn’t waste any time in moving on to pastures new once he’s been turned down, she thought. Maybe Dorian was right. They exchanged glances, Penny raising what seemed like an accusatory eyebrow before heading off in the opposite direction, towards her pitch.

“I’ve just gotta take a shower a minute,” Bonnie said, oblivious to the momentary exchange between Scott and Penny, “but what’re you doing this morning?”

“Ah…” Scott hesitated, his mind still on Penny’s expression.

“… Only… Well, I know I’m being a bit forward, but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind letting me have a look at your campervan. It’s one of those old ones, in’t it? Looks great from a distance.”

“Err… I don’t see why not,” Scott replied, realising he probably had the morning – maybe even the day – free now that Red’s camera was stuffed. And Penny sure looked like she could do with a bit of breathing space. “In fact, why don’t you come over for brekky? I’ve got some nice fish I was gonna cook up.”

Bonnie cringed. “Ooh, sorry to make a face. It’s just that, well, I don’t eat meat. Can’t stand the thought of hurting animals.”

Not another one. “No worries,” Scott smiled. “Come on over anyway and I’ll fix you something that hasn’t got a face – you like muesli?” She nodded. “While you’re there, I’ll Introduce you to our cameraman, Red.”

“Oh, is he the ginger-haired one?” she gushed. He nodded. “Silly question, I suppose – what with a name like Red… I’ve seen him filming round the site. I think he’s quite cute, actually. He’s got that look – I don’t know – like he needs looking after or something.”

“He sure does. So, ah… You haven’t got any fancy blokes waiting on the horizon, then?”

She shook her head, then shyly tucked her hair behind her ear again.

“Well,” Scott beamed back at her, “I reckon you and Red’ll get on like a house on fire.”

 

 

CHAPTER 13

 

Later that day, Penny was leaving her tent when she bumped into Mr Musgrave. He had a strange look about him, as though he’d been dithering about outside for a while. Penny frowned. “Can I help you, Mr Musgrave?”

“Err… Actually, I was hoping to find you alone,” he said, sounding unsure of himself. His head was low and his cap was off his head and in his hands. “There was something I wanted to talk with you about… Err… About your mother…” But he was interrupted when Penny spotted Scott coming out of Red’s tent nearby.

“Oh, Scott!” she said, beckoning him over. “I was just going to come and look for you.”

“Sorry to interrupt, Mr Musgrave. Please go on,” she said, turning back to him. At first, he seemed a little put out at the intrusion. “Oh, I, err, that is, the wife and I,” he began hesitantly, clutching tighter to his cap. “Well, we just wanted to pass on our condolences – in person, like – see if there was anything you needed.”

“That’s very kind of you, Mr Musgrave,” Penny said. She’d only met the man a couple of times since she’d been on the site, but he seemed a nice sort and she felt comfortable with him. It was thoughtful that he’d gone out of his way to come across and see her.

“Oh, I do apologise, Mr Musgrave. I’ve got an appointment with the inspector from the police station this afternoon…” she said, glancing at her watch. “Now, actually.”

Inspector, eh? he frowned. The police must have taken her theory seriously if an inspector is going to traipse all the way over here, he thought. “Ah, well, err…” he flustered. Despite his wish to talk more or ask what was going on, it was obvious he was going to be a fifth wheel about the place.

As Scott approached, he noticed light flecks on the site owner’s trousers. Bloody hell, that dandruff of his is worse than I thought, Scott frowned. I’ll have to see if there’s any bay trees over here, make him up a hair rinse from the leaves. That’ll sort him out.

“Well, I’d best be off, then,” Mr Musgrave said, giving a brief nod to Penny and Scott before walking away.

“Red’s still poking around with that camera of his,” Scott said turning to Penny, “but he wants a word with you later. Said it was important.”

Penny nodded, her mind preoccupied. “Look,” she said to Scott, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to say.” She lowered her head. “I’m sorry I’ve been… Well, I haven’t been myself…”

“Y’know,” he said thoughtfully, “some people reckon that spirits hang about after a person dies. I reckon your mother’s just sharing some of her fiery spirit with you, eh? Letting you know she’s still around.” Her shoulders loosened as he spoke. It was nice of him to let her off the hook so easily.

“Anyway,” Scott added, “if this is about that girl you saw me with earlier, there was nothing…”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me, Scott,” she said pointedly. “Look,” she let out a sigh, “we’re still friends – aren’t we?”

But before he could say anything, Penny’s attention was drawn to a man approaching from a short distance away. He was wearing a dark grey suit and accompanied by a woman carrying some sort of metal case.

“Oh, I was meant to meet the inspector at reception. But it looks like he’s found me instead…”

“Well, that’s a good sign, at least – if he’s managed to ‘detect’ where you’re staying, I mean,” Scott joked.

“Look, Scott,” Penny said more seriously, “will you stay – please? I could do with your being around right now.”

“Sure. I thought that was the general idea… We’re friends, aren’t we?” She put on a smile, looking relieved.

 

“Miss Gosling, I presume?” The tall, thin man in the suit reached out to shake hands with Penny. That’s another good sign, Scott thought. He’s ‘detected’ who she is.

“That’s right,” Penny said, meeting his handshake. He was younger than she’d expected – maybe only in his forties – a clean-shaven man with a fresh face that belied his healthy fitness lifestyle.

“I’m Inspector Dodd,” he said in a professional yet friendly manner, “and this is my colleague, Officer Turnbull.”

Penny shook hands with the female officer who was also in plain dress – a navy blue skirt and light blue blouse.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Gosling,” the inspector said, feeling like the line was wholly inadequate. Penny nodded.

“And this is Scott Chevalier, inspector.”

“Ah, yes, the gentleman you mentioned on the phone.” Scott frowned, wondering why Penny would’ve mentioned him. Oh, well, I suppose we were together when we found her mother.

“I’ve heard all about you,” the inspector said. [_Oh, not another one! _]Scott thought. “Eradicator of our beloved seagulls and phantom knife-thrower,” he added, hiding a smile.

“Yeah, well I wouldn’t have taken that seagull down if he hadn’t been about to take my eye out,” Scott countered. In any case, between them, he and Penny had eaten all the evidence now, he thought.

“Off the record, I doubt if the fate of one of those annoying little pests in a little seaside town like ours is going to break any hearts. We’re used to Mr Bambury down at the station. Been a serial complainer for years by all accounts. Unfortunately, you can’t arrest someone for doing that – at least, not yet you can’t!” he said, giving Officer Turnbull a pertinent glance.

“But, officially,” he continued, “I’m afraid I have to inform you that they are in fact a protected species, Mr Chevalier… And ah… any truth to the knife-throwing Mr Bambury claims you’ve been engaged in?” He gave Scott a pointed look now.

“Well, I admit to throwing a knife into a tree – it’s all part of what I do on the show we’re filming,” Scott said, “but if some idiot comes along and throws himself into your path, what’s a fella to do?” If anyone had been out to cause trouble, it had been Mr Bambury. A little white lie wasn’t going to make any difference. “Anyway, no harm done, eh?”

“Is that what happened, Miss Gosling?” he said, turning towards Penny. She shrugged vacantly. She wasn’t exactly in the mood for getting roped into this sort of thing. “Well, then,” the inspector said, looking Scott over. “Without any witnesses, it seems like it’s your word against his.” In any case, the inspector thought, [_wouldn’t hurt for someone to put the wind up the old moaner now and then. _]And besides, young Scott Chevalier might have a hint of the rebel about him, but he certainly wasn’t convict material.

“So,” the inspector continued, feeling as though he’d done enough to say he’d investigated Mr Bambury’s claims if pushed on the matter, “let’s get down to why we’re here. I understand you’re of the opinion that your mother’s death wasn’t an accident…” He turned to Penny now. “Something about a gas stove having been moved?”

Penny nodded again. “I’ll show you to her tent if you like. No one’s been inside since she… passed away.” Every time she’d uttered the words ‘death’ and ‘died’, they’d felt so harsh.

“You sure you wanna do this?” Scott frowned, hoping she wasn’t going to put herself through the wringer based on what might end up being a false memory.

“Quite sure,” Penny said. It seemed to be her stock answer, even when she obviously wasn’t sure at all.

“Then, pray, lead the way, Miss Gosling,” the inspector said, noticing her hesitation.

 

As they left Penny’s tent and were heading to Sally’s, Bonnie came across the grass with one of the girls from the hen group.

“Oh, Scott! Wait up a minute!” she called, waving him down. The girls sped their pace. Scott hung back as the others continued to Sally’s tent. “Is Red around?” she asked, glancing with curiosity after the group.

“Oh, yeah, he’s in his tent.”

“Thanks… Ah, by the way, this is Brenda…” she said as her friend caught her up. Brenda gave a giggly wave and flashed her eyes at Scott. “You know – the girl I was telling you about..?”

Brenda had a generous figure that showed she definitely didn’t shy away from eating for two at the dinner table. And it looked like she’d picked up some bad fashion advice, too. Tight black leggings weren’t quite as slimming as she’d been led to believe.

“Oh, yeah. G’day,” Scott nodded, politely doffing his hat yet secretly hoping that Bonnie wasn’t seriously trying to set him up with her. Brenda wasn’t exactly his type. And, besides, he was still hoping Penny would eventually change her mind – women had a habit of doing that.

“Ah… I’m a bit tied up at the moment,” Scott said, glad he had an excuse to duck out of the encounter, “but I reckon Red would like to see you – go on over… I’d better run.”

Scott made his way over to Sally’s tent and pulled back the door-flap.

“I don’t understand it,” Penny was saying in a strained voice to the inspector as he entered, “the camp stove was right there!” She pointed firmly at the table on which it had rested. A shot of panic raced through her veins. If they didn’t have the stove, there was no evidence to catch the killer – assuming she was right and there was one. She looked around frantically, re-checking the porch area, but the camp stove was – most definitely – gone.

“How could it just have disappeared like that? It was right there!” Penny cried. “None of us have even been in here.”

“Well, the evidence says that someone most certainly has,” the inspector replied. “From what I can gather, there was nothing pointing to suspicious circumstances the morning your mother… passed away, Miss Gosling. Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common than you think. But now the camp stove is gone… Well, that puts a whole new spin on things, doesn’t it?” he said, checking round the tent for anything else that might look unusual or out of place.

As he spoke, Penny stared vacantly at the camp bed – the last place she’d seen her mother – and the horror of it all came flooding back to her. The awful terror she’d felt when she found her. The colour, drained from her mother’s face – still, lifeless.

“Just as well I brought Officer Turnbull along. She’ll dust around for prints… Not that I’m promising we’ll find anything, mind. We’ll also need to get prints from your film crew – just to eliminate you all from our enquiries, of course,” the inspector emphasised – although, he had to admit, those very same fingerprints could rule someone into a crime just as easily! In any case, it was obvious he was going to have to class the tent as a crime scene for the time being.

While Officer Turnbull was opening up her case respectfully at the foot of the camp bed, Scott looked over to the table where Penny had indicated the camp stove had been. It all seemed a bit puzzling. Why would anyone have taken the camp stove? He scanned about and noticed some sort of fine substance on the tarpaulin floor. What was that? Talcum powder? He looked around and spotted more near the doorway. He stepped across and crouched down for a closer look. Looks like sawdust, he frowned, rubbing some between his fingers before taking a sniff.

Scott glanced up to see the inspector writing something in his notebook. “Inspector, what do you make of…” But his question was cut short by Penny who was now racing past him and out of the tent. The inspector’s head swivelled round and, as Scott stood up, they exchanged glances. “I’d better go and check on her,” he said before running out.

“I’m sorry, Scott. I thought I’d be OK,” Penny blubbed when he reached her.

“Come here,” he said, putting an arm around her. She buried her head into his chest as he stroked her hair with his free hand. “Everything’s going to be all right,” he said softly, letting her sob it out.

But, despite his reassuring words, Scott wasn’t so sure everything was going to be all right. In fact, ever since Sally had died, more and more evidence seemed to be stacking up to make him think that something sinister might be going on here, that they might all be in danger. But he wasn’t about to share with Penny that she, too, could be a possible target. She might normally be the strong type, but news like that at a time like this was just going to push her over the edge.

“Ssshhh…” he said in soothing tones, deep in thought. He hadn’t known Penny for long, but he somehow felt a connection. And as he hugged her closer, he was adamant he would do anything to protect her.

 

 

CHAPTER 14

 

Scott brewed a strong infusion of tea made from chamomile and valerian plants he’d found not far from his van later that afternoon. The scent rose with the steam and filled the camper as Scott handed it to Penny and instructed her to drink it. It’d help her sleep, he said.

And it did.

After she’d drunk the concoction, Scott set up the bed and left her to rest; and she fell into a deep slumber, exhausted from lack of sleep and the emotional toll of her mother’s death. He sat outside, resting against the bough of a tree, where he could keep a watchful eye on her.

 

Scott lifted his hat off his face and opened an eye when Red came by a little while later to check on Penny.

“She’s still fast asleep, mate,” Scott whispered, trying not to wake her. Red nodded understanding, flicking a glance over at the van.

“All right, just remind Penny I need to have a word with her, will you? Tell her I’ll pop round to her tent later this evening, OK?” he replied in hushed tones.

“Where are you off to?” Scott said curiously, noticing Red had his photography camera strapped round his neck. Both eyes were open now.

“Gonna do a bit of investigating,” Red said, tapping the side of his nose. “I’ve got a funny feeling that Bambury bloke has got something to do with all this. Thought I might go and have a poke round when he goes out to walk the dog. You never know, I might find that camp stove that’s mysteriously gone missing.”

“Righto. Well, don’t go gettin’ yourself into any trouble,” Scott smiled. “See ya tonight,” he added, closing his eyes again and pulling his hat back over his face.

 

Red wandered off towards the path, but instead of following it to the beach, he took the turn towards the residential area nearby. He’d been told that Mr Bambury lived in Bambury Lodge which was just the other side of the woods. Not hard to find, Mr Musgrave had told him.

And he was right. A signpost along the way pointed both to the Lodge itself and to the more recent housing estate, built on the land the Bambury family used to own. According to Mr Musgrave, Mr Bambury’s grandparents had been in financial crisis and had to sell the land off. To Mr Bambury’s dismay, the whole area was eventually developed and he’d found himself hemmed in by characterless box housing, despite his lobbying against it when he was a councillor.

Red walked along the wooden fenceline that surrounded the Bambury Lodge grounds and came to a large sign saying PRIVATE PROPERTYKEEP OUT! Clearly, Mr Bambury didn’t like pesky visitors. Red walked along a little further, and at the end of the fenceline, where a short line of sharp arrow-topped railings began, he came to another warning sign that read BEWARE OF THE DOG! which featured a picture of a hungry Alsatian.

Red frowned, wondering at the wisdom of his decision to snoop about. Back at the campsite, he’d been all full of determination to help Penny out, but now…? It wasn’t as though he was some kind of streetwise private eye from a TV show who knew how to take care of himself if he got into a tight spot.

Red’s breathing tightened, sure his childhood asthma was making a comeback. He was thinking that maybe he should just go back to the site and leave things to the police, when he saw a car driving towards the front gates of the property as they slowly opened. The car passed through and came to a stop. Red could see Mr Bambury sitting in the front seat. Just like his glasses, the windows of his racing-green Jaguar were tinted, but the front windows were down. Mr Bambury checked the exit was clear and drove off.

It was all the encouragement he needed. Bambury’s taking his dog out for a walk, Red thought as he watched the car heading down the road. Gritting his determination, Red hurried along, just making it through the wrought-iron gates as they automatically swung shut.

Instead of sticking to the tarmac driveway, he began creeping through the grounds as though he were on some kind of military operation. Clearly he’d seen too many movies. He knew from what Mr Musgrave had told him that Mr Bambury lived alone – no wife – at least not any more – no children, and no butler.

Red moved through the swathe of pine trees surrounding the lodge, his heart beating fast as he ducked from tree to tree, crunching on pine needles, cones and twigs as he went. He stopped, held his breath, and stuck his head out from behind a tree, trying to get a good look at the lodge. It was an old, stone building covered in deep green Virginia creepers and fronted with numerous windows. At the side of the building was a large kennel, no doubt the home of Mr Bambury’s beast of a dog.

Thankfully, as he moved nearer to the building, Red could see no signs of life. The place looked peaceful, totally deserted. All the better to have a good nosey round, he thought. Although he hadn’t quite worked out a plan of action yet. Was he going to try and break in? Or just see what he could see through the windows? He had a video facility on his camera, so if he spotted the camp stove, he could easily get footage – and then there’d be proof that the old nuisance was guilty. He’d have found Sally’s killer.

Just as Red was beginning to drop his guard, something hard hit the top of his back and startled him. He let out a sudden yelp, thinking someone had spotted him skulking about. But when he span round, he saw a fluffy grey tail bobbing off at speed along the pine ground covering.

Thank God! Red thought, blowing out a sigh of relief. It’s just a stupid squirrel! Great time to use me as a springboard, mate!

Red’s breathing tightened abruptly when he heard the bark of a dog. Oh, no! he thought, his head swivelling back around towards the lodge. _ He’s here after all_.

Alerted by his cry of surprise, Mr Bambury’s dog had woken up from his slumber and his head was now sticking out of the kennel.

Red’s heart was thudding in his chest and he instinctively backed away, hoping he could hide behind a tree before the dog spotted him. But as he stepped back, a large twig snapped loudly under foot and the dog’s head shot round. Red’s eyes bulged with disbelief as the mutt suddenly ran in his direction.

His legs turned to jelly. He knew he should run, but he was totally paralysed. As the dog was almost upon him, Red’s legs suddenly came to life, darting off along the pine carpet, certain he couldn’t outrun the dog. Frantically, he eyed up the trees around him, looking for safe harbour. But as he ran, it began to dawn on him that he was putting space between him and the dog’s bark. It was impossible. The dog had been so close only a moment ago.

Red slowed, turning to find that the dog had come to a stop, reined in by a chain. Its teeth were bared and it was salivating as it tugged like a crazy hound from hell against its old metal tether. Red’s legs were still aquiver, but he finally gave a nervous laugh of relief as he watched the dog’s feeble attempts to get at him. He was safe!

Or so he thought.

A moment later, the chain snapped off its bolt in the kennel and the dog was free, racing towards Red. He gasped, adrenalin kicking in once again. He swung round and ran, lunging for a nearby tree and somehow managing to scramble up it. He clung to a branch, pulling himself up just in time to escape the powerful snap of the dog’s jaws. The snarling mutt repeatedly lunged at him from the ground, his dripping fangs making a play for his feet.

Red bunched himself up in the crux of the tree as tightly as possible, knowing the dog could smell his fear – or maybe it was something else he could smell that was rapidly filling his pants. Either way, he hadn’t a clue how he was going to get out of this one. For all he knew, Mr Bambury had just popped out for some milk and might be back any minute. Then he’d be the one who’d be going to prison, not Mr Bambury. And on top of it all, he hadn’t even managed to get any incriminating evidence against him.

Red sat in the tree for what felt like an eternity, running a string of worst-case scenarios through his mind. Scenarios like having his limbs ripped off by the Alsatian, getting gangrene and having to spend the rest of his life testing out artificial limbs in a private hospital. Or scenarios like being banged up in a maximum-security prison with some cellmate who took a shine to him and wanted him to be his ‘bitch’. It didn’t bear thinking about.

Red thought the slavering dog was never going to tire of his menacing, but then suddenly, his attention was distracted and he stopped barking. Oh, God! Mr Bambury’s back, Red thought. But when he saw a squirrel racing by, he realised he was wrong.

Suddenly, the dog was off, chasing the scampering tail of the squirrel like a greyhound after a decoy rabbit on a racing track, the chain slinking noisily behind him.

As Red watched him disappear out of sight, he realised this might be his only chance to get out of there. He wasted no time – he jumped out of the tree and ran down the driveway towards the front gate as fast as he could.

But he’d forgotten! _ The gate was now closed._

As the gate came into sight, he heard the dog’s bark close by. He twisted his neck as he ran, only to see it bounding up behind him again. The squirrel might have escaped up a tree, but Red realised he wasn’t going to be so lucky. But he stabbed on regardless.

He turned off the tarmac, ran across the pine needles, wheezing as he made a lunge for the wooden fenceline where the sharp-topped railings ended. His hands gripped the top of the fence, the panels straining from the weight, and felt a moment of panic. The fence wasn’t built for this.

Fear coursed through him as he imagined the dog’s breath at his heels. He heard the slinky rattle of the chain coming up behind. His fingers clutched tighter and he drew on his reserves, yanking himself up, feet clambering as he scrambled over the fence. His camera smacked down hard on the grass verge as he landed in a tangled heap on the other side. He heard the dog bounding up the fence, its claws scraping on the wood as it tried and failed to follow him over.

Out of breath and shaken, Red picked himself up and leant against the fence, his heart pounding in his chest. Just as well there was no barbed wire on that fence, he thought, closing his eyes for a moment to catch his breath. That would’ve just been Bambury’s style. In any case, it was all over now. There was no way the dog was going to get to him this time.

He opened his eyes again, still a jumpy bag of nerves, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye that made him flinch. His head sprang round and he sighed with relief to see it was only the squirrel, sitting on top of the fence, looking down as though goading the dog on the other side.

Red could hear the dog’s tireless frantic growls, felt his paws pushing on the fence as he lunged towards the squirrel. “This is all your fault!” Red said, pointing a shaky finger at the squirrel. But the creature seemed to take no notice of either of them and promptly bobbed along the fence and ran down Red’s body onto the ground, the unexpected movement startling him once more.

Red took another breath and tried to shake off the feelings of adrenalin coursing through him then stared after the squirrel as it headed into the woods, realising he needed to get a move on in the same direction.

He started to make off, then turned back, clenching his jaw indecisively. There was definitely something not right about that Bambury bloke, but he couldn’t help feeling like a failure for not having succeeded in his task. Despite his unease, he was more determined than ever to find the camp stove and prove the man guilty. After all, Penny’s life – his own life, even – might depend on it. But how on earth was he ever going to get it with that old mutt hanging round?

He gazed back at the fence pondering it all, but no answer came to mind. Whatever the solution was, it was clear, as he listened to the Alsatian’s ever-desperate barks, that he wasn’t going to get anywhere today.

Besides, he thought, accepting temporary defeat and heading back to the site now, I’m gonna need a bloody good lie-down after all this excitement.

 

 

CHAPTER 15

 

When Penny finally stirred from her much-needed slumber, Scott fed her, then took her for a walk along the dunes to help clear her head.

The sun had gone down by the time they got back to the site, and rounded the front of Scott’s campervan on their way to Penny’s tent.

“It’s been a long day,” he said, “but you’re looking a lot better after that rest and a bite to eat. I was getting worried about you.”

“I’ll be fine. Honest… But thanks,” she smiled, pushing her hands further into her fleece pockets. She glanced up towards her tent and noticed Red coming out of his in the dim low-lights of the site.

“Oh, crikey!” Scott said when he saw him. “Red came around this afternoon while you were asleep. Said he wanted to talk with you. I’d forgotten all about it.”

“Never mind. I can see what he wants now,” Penny said, holding up a hand to wave at him. Red saw the two of them and waited outside Penny’s tent as they approached.

“I was just coming to see if you were around. Couldn’t find you earlier,” he said, switching his torch on. “Crikey, the lights down this side of the site aren’t exactly brilliant, are they? And half of them seem to have blown,” he griped.

“Ooh, that’s strange,” Penny said. “Am I going mad, Scott? I did pop back here to switch the light on in my tent before we went for a walk, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, you’re right, you did.”

“You don’t think someone’s been in here, do you?” Penny said.

“What? Like another camp stove thief, you mean?”

“That’s not funny, Scott.”

“Well, let’s check it out,” Red said. “Might just be a blown bulb. I can always fish out another one for you.”

“Thanks, Red,” Penny nodded as he unzipped the tent and shone his torch inside. “I’ll wait here while you check.” She bunched up her shoulders and hugged her fleece closer, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. Back on the beach, she’d started to feel a little better, but now that she was standing here, outside in the gloom of the night, things were starting to feel decidedly eerie again.

Scott saw the look on her face in the dim low-lights and gave her a reassuring smile before pulling his flashlight out of his fleece jacket pocket, switching it on and following in behind Red.

He shone the light around, noticing a glass of water tipped over on a table on one side of the tent. He followed the spill with the beam and saw a large pool of water on the floor reaching all the way to an electric socket.

Jeez! Scott’s heart raced. His head snapped up to see Red shining his torch on an unshaded bulb strung up from the ceiling. And he was about to step into the water.

Realising the danger, Scott shouted out.

“Red! Stop right there!”

But it was too late.

Red had already put his foot down into the pool. Instantly, he was jolted backwards, knocking back hard into Scott as he went.

They were both on the ground now. Red was lying face up on top of Scott, but only Scott was conscious.

Winded by the blow from Red’s body, Scott slid out from under him and wasted no time in grabbing under his arms and dragging him towards the doorway, away from the water’s reach.

Hearing the commotion, Penny ran to the opening, looking both confused and horrified in the dim light.

What the…?

“Quick!” Scott cried, looking up at her with concern. “Call an ambulance!”

 

 

CHAPTER 16

 

“I think you look better than me and Scott put together,” Penny smiled wryly at Red when she walked into the open hospital ward early the next morning. “Neither of us got much sleep last night worrying about you.”

She leant down to Red as he sat there in bed and kissed him on the cheek. He blushed – he’d worked with Penny through the production company quite a bit and always liked her. He could’ve asked her out, of course, but never felt she was in his league. Ah, well, best not to ruminate on past regrets.[_ _]In any case, if it’d gone tits-up, Sally would’ve had his guts for garters, he thought.

“Scott not with you?” Red asked.

“He’s on his way – visiting the little boy’s room – or ‘dunny’ as he prefers to call it,” Penny replied. “Anyway, how’re you feeling?”

“Let’s just say, I don’t ever wanna go through that again. Doctors say I was lucky. Got a few singed toes and had a dislocated shoulder, but they reckon I’ll be OK. I think someone told me they have lower amperage on campsites these days – just as well, otherwise I might’ve been frazzled to a crisp. Makes you think, doesn’t it?”

“I’d rather not, if you don’t mind,” Penny said. “Don’t want to lose anyone else I care about just now.”

Red gave her a look, both apologetic and consolatory.

“Anyway,” she gave a half-smile, “I’m glad to see you’re still with us.”

He flickered a return smile then paused for a moment, glancing briefly at the old man in the next bed. The poor old thing was in for the long-haul and starved of attention. He’d told Red he rarely had any visitors – reckoned he’d even got to looking forward to the bed baths. Red cringed at the thought of that, hoping things would never get that bad for him. Surprisingly, he was a pretty jolly guy, considering his various ailments.

Seeing that the old chap was happily ensconced reading an old Woman’s World magazine someone had left lying around, Red leant forward to talk to Penny. “Err, Penny…” he said in a low voice, not wanting anyone to overhear. “There was something I wanted to tell…”

But an instant later, Scott came up behind her and interrupted him. Red sat up straighter, trying to hide his disappointment at being stopped in mid-flow. He’d been trying to speak with Penny alone for a while and it looked like he’d have to postpone the discussion yet again.

“Strewth! Look at that hair-do!” Scott chuckled, certain that Red’s locks had been super-charged by the shock and gone even fuzzier. “It’s amazing what a bit of leccy can do for ya. No need to go to the hairdressers to give you some extra frizz, is there? – We can just plug you into the mains.”

“Y’cheeky sod! I suppose I can’t say anything, though. Turns out you’re a real-life hero,” Red smiled. “Got my heart pumping again while the ambulance was on its way… Might not be alive now if it wasn’t for you, so they tell me.”

“Ah, well, done a bit of lifeguardin’ in my time, so you have to know all that kinda stuff…” Scott said, making light of it. “I’m just glad it’s all over. I was sweating there for a while, though, thinking I was going to have to give you the kiss of life.” The old man in the neighbouring bed pricked his ears up and looked over his magazine with interest. “Not a pretty thought…” Scott added.

“Thank heavens you were wearing your flip-flops as well,” Penny said. “Otherwise those minor burns on your toes would’ve been much worse.”

Red was relieved it hadn’t come to that. “I used to know this woman who did special effects – from America – and she showed me this portfolio she’d made up of fake electrical burns. Said they were based on real-life cases. Some of them were pretty horrific.” Penny winced.

“Well, if you ask me,” Scott said, “this electrocution business is no coincidence – and I don’t reckon it was an accident, either.”

“Wadda ya mean?” Red asked.

“When you were looking to sort out that bulb, I was shining my torch round the tent. I think that water was just made to look like it had spilled out of the glass on the table. There was way too much around – it was like a kids’ paddling pool down there and it reached right over to the power socket.”

Red frowned. That would explain a few things.

“I went to go and check on your tent this morning, Penny. All of that water had mysteriously evaporated and the light worked just fine. Reported there was a fault all the same, though. Just to make sure it was safe.”

Penny looked confused. “Hold on, Scott, why didn’t you mention any of this before?”

“Because I didn’t want to worry you, that’s why. You’ve had enough on your plate. But it’s pretty clear that someone’s out to get you. Only on this occasion, they missed their target and got someone else by mistake instead.” He looked at Red now. “We’re just lucky you’re still alive, mate.”

“Yeah, but there isn’t a shred of proof for any of it now – conveniently enough,” Red said, thinking how he’d failed to get any evidence at the Bambury place. Things weren’t looking too good.

Penny shook her head and frowned. “Wait a minute. If you’re right, then why would anyone want to harm me?”

“I don’t know the answer to that one,” Scott shrugged. “But if someone did do your mother in, it stands to reason it’s the same person with the same motive… doesn’t it?”

Penny’s face grew sullen, unaware that the old man in the next bed was doing his best to listen in. He now had the magazine on his lap and was twiddling the knob on his hearing aid, trying to boost the sound. This sounded juicy.

“A little bird told me she saw that Mr Fixit guy leaving your tent late yesterday,” Scott said, giving Penny a pertinent look.

“Little bird?” Penny frowned. “You’re not talking about that bit of fluff you’ve been swanning about with on the site, are you?”

“Who, Bonnie? She’s not a bit of fluff, she’s a very nice girl, actually,” Scott countered, exchanging glances with Red. Women, eh?

“Well, just how did this very nice girl manage to end up over our side of the site to tell you all this? Her giggling hen party isn’t exactly camped right next door.”

“Ah, well, she was coming over to…” he began, then hesitated. “Hold on a minute. I reckon you’re jealous,” he said, giving Penny a curious look.

“I certainly am not,” she scowled, folding her arms tightly. “Our relationship is purely professional. I’ve told you that,” she added, lowering her gaze. Scott chuckled to himself. He was going to have a bit of fun with this.

“Well, if you must know… Bonnie was coming over to our side of the site to visit someone.” Penny’s arms tightened. “A very special someone… Isn’t that right, Red?”

Red blushed.

The old man next door was almost falling out of his bed now. Haven’t heard a good ding-dong like this in a long time. This is better than watching those rubbishy old soaps on TV.

“She was coming to visit me,” Red admitted with a sigh, putting an end to Scott’s teasing. Crikey, he was like a cat with a ball of wool.

“Anyway,” Red frowned, looking from one to the other in an attempt to move things on, “didn’t you say you saw that Mr Fixit hanging about the night your mum died, Penny?… He could easily have gone into her tent and rigged up the camp stove, couldn’t he?”

“You’re right,” Scott agreed.

“Yes…” Penny said, loosening her stance, “and he could easily have removed it the next day after the police had gone.”

[Hmm… _]thought Red,[ maybe I was wrong about Mr Bambury after all. It could just as easily have been that bolshie Fixit guy._]

“Yeah,” Red mused, “although why he couldn’t have left it there, and just wiped it down so there’d be no fingerprints, is a bit of a mystery. It would’ve taken next to no time, and he wouldn’t have to risk someone seeing him carry the stove out, either.”

“Well, Inspector Dodd’s on the case,” Penny said. “It’s probably better to leave it to the professionals to work out. The inspector seems a good sort and looks like he knows what he’s doing.”

“When will you be out of here, d’ya reckon?” Scott asked Red.

“Tomorrow, the nurse said. Burns are minimal and they’ve put my shoulder back in – apparently got dislocated when I got zapped.”

“Nearly dislocated mine, too, when you fell back onto me,” Scott said, rubbing his chest. “It’s still a bit sore.”

“I wouldn’t worry about you, Hercules, you’ll be all right. Mind you, if there’s any bruising, we won’t be filming any semi-naked shots of you for a while,” Red smiled. The eyes of the old man next door widened. [What were these lot doing? Filming dodgy movies or something? _]Either way, they were definitely more interesting than the run-of-the-mill visitors that usually came into _this joint, what with their cheap bouquets of flowers and bags of grapes.

Red continued, oblivious to his eavesdropping neighbour. “The nurse said they just want to make sure my hydration levels are hunky dory, and then I’m done. Anyway,” he leant in, “I think they secretly want to get shot of me. They’re always desperate for beds, aren’t they? To be honest, I can’t wait to leave. The food in here’s not exactly haute cuisine. I think I’d rather eat a rat.”

“I’m sure I can arrange that for you,” Scott smiled. Penny made a face.

“I’m sure you can,” Red cringed.

“Talking of food,” Scott added, “this place is amazing… Smells like they’ve managed to have the exact same menu here as they had in the hospital my mum stayed in back in Australia… Cabbage soup, if I’m not mistaken.” Red was smiling now.

“Well, then,” he said, patting Red on the shoulder. Red flinched. “Ooh, that’s the shoulder that was dislocated.”

“Err, sorry, mate,” Scott replied, removing his hand and putting it into his pocket where it could do less harm. “Well, I’ll come and pick you up tomorrow, eh?… I reckon Dorian should be here by then, too,” he said.

“Something to look forward to,” Red sighed, raising his eyebrows. “Out of the frying pan and all that.”

“Oh, don’t be like that. Dorian’s not that bad… when you get to know him,” Penny said.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Red conceded. In actual fact, he had never actually worked with the man on set before, but he’d occasionally had dealings with him before and after filming. Supposedly, Dorian used to work on set, but these days, he worked closely with Frank running the production company, along with his secretary, Sandra. He knew Dorian was a bit of a stickler and dreaded to think what it might be like working with him full time. Maybe the rumours about him had just been blown out of proportion, he didn’t know. But he certainly hoped he wasn’t going to be as hard on him as Sally had been.

Penny and Scott said their goodbyes and walked out of the ward under the watchful eye of Red and the man in the next bed.

“Best entertainment I’ve had in years,” the old man said to Red, grinning, his eyes twinkling. “Just a shame I can’t have a good chuckle – Doc says I’ll pop my prostate if I have too much fun!”

Red looked over and smiled, but as he remembered what he’d been meaning to tell Penny, it began to fade. How was he ever going to tell her about this?

 

 

CHAPTER 17

 

“Thanks for offering to make breakfast,” Penny said to Scott when they got back to the site and reached his campervan. “After everything that’s been going on, I think I would’ve gone straight to bed for a lie down instead of eating.”

“Gotta keep your strength up, eh?” Scott said, opening up his van and pulling out a couple of folding chairs. “Anyway, making a bit of toast and a cuppa’s no effort,” Scott said as he got in the van and pulled some bread out of a brown paper bag.

A few minutes later, Scott handed a plate down to Penny from his perch in the van. She took it from him and sat down on a chair then looked down at the toast, creasing her brow slightly at the slice covered in uneven, blobby jam before lifting it to take a bite.

“Err, sorry about my bad jam spreading… Mum always used to complain about that. My toast’s bad enough anyway, what with these camper grills toasting the bread unevenly…”

“Hmm…” Penny raised an eyebrow.

“Hey, what time do you reckon those nurses tossed us out of the hospital and told us to get some rest last night?” Scott asked, changing tack as he toasted his own bread.

“One, two o’clock…?… I’m not sure… Anyway, thanks for letting me sleep in your van last night, Scott.”

“Yeah, well I wasn’t about to let you sleep in your tent, was I? Or Red’s for that matter. If there is some madman on the loose, I’d rather give ‘em a locked door to get through first,” he said as he came down from the van now. He put his own plate of toast on the table, followed by a couple of steaming mugs of tea, then sat down beside her to eat.

“Didn’t get much sleep anyway as it turns out,” Penny said. “I was tossing and turning all night.”

“Yeah, don’t I know it… I’ve never had any problem taking a nap in the driver’s seat before, but when you finally fell off to sleep last night, your feet kept digging into the back of the seat. You must’ve been having some bad dreams – you were thrashing about like a lunatic at one point.” Penny looked contrite. “So it looks like neither of us got much rest.”

“It’s bad enough what happened to Mum – now I’ve got Red to worry about. I guess it’s all been playing on my mind,” Penny said as she put down her plate and took a sip of hot tea.

“You, me both. I’m just hoping this inspector bloke rounds up this nutcase before too long…”

“Well, before he left yesterday – after I managed to calm down a bit, that is…” Penny said, feeling uncomfortable about openly showing her upset the day before, “he said he was going to call Mr Bambury into the station. He thought, if he could get him in on the pretence of updating him on those complaints he’d made about us, he could ask him a few pertinent questions.”

“Yeah, well, he is one of our top suspects,” Scott said, putting his bare feet up on the footplate of his camper.

“The inspector seems to think Mr Bambury would be more likely to put up the barriers if he thought he was under official investigation,” Penny said.

“Makes sense. Using the softly-softly approach, eh? At least to begin with. Reckon that inspector knows what he’s doing,” Scott said as he picked up his last slice of toast.

“Hopefully he’ll have some news for us soon, one way or another,” Penny said as she took another swig of tea. “Hmm… When do you think they’ll finish checking the electrics?”

“Mrs Musgrave was quite concerned when I told her what had happened. I told her we’d pulled the plugs out of that main electric hook-up point. But she said she’d send someone round as soon as possible, just to make sure it was all safe.”

“That’s one good thing, at least. I saw Mrs Musgrave in the shower block yesterday. I’m afraid I was rather offish with her. I really didn’t feel like talking with anyone. I hope she didn’t take offence.”

“I’m sure she understands,” Scott said, taking a slurp from his mug. “I saw Bonnie – that girl Red likes – after reporting the electrics at reception this morning. That’s when she told me about that Mr Fixit hovering round last night. Thought she was up a bit early – considering she’s on some hen holiday. You’d think she’d be up till all hours with those mates of hers, and sleeping it off till late.”

“Oh, yes, Bonnie… the ‘bit of fluff’ you’ve been going round with?” Penny said with a hint of cheeky sarcasm as she raised an eyebrow. “You were having a nice time teasing me with that one back in the hospital, weren’t you?”

Scott smiled to himself with satisfaction. “Anyway, Red seems to be getting on well with her. I only introduced them yesterday morning at breakfast, and from what Bonnie said, you can’t prise them apart.”

“Well, I’m just glad he’s found someone – I’ve never known him to have a girlfriend. Well, he’s never mentioned one, anyway. He always seems a bit shy round the ladies. I can’t help thinking it’ll end in disaster, though. We aren’t going to be here that long, and if he’s gone and fallen head over heels or something, he’ll only get hurt when we leave here.”

“Well, looking on the bright side…” Scott said, giving a mock-cough, “the Velcro twins haven’t been spending all their time together… He didn’t mention it at the hospital, but while you were sleeping yesterday afternoon, Red went round to that Bambury fella’s place to have a snoop – thought he might find that camp stove stashed away somewhere.”

“He did?” Penny said, raising her eyebrows in surprise. “That was brave of him. He’s terrified of dogs. You must be having an influence on him, Scott. Hmm… Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.”

“Go easy,” he creased his brow at her and she smiled back. “Well, I think he was gonna wait till Bambury took the dog for a walk before he tried anything. Forgot to ask him what came of it when we were at the hospital. Reckon he’d have mentioned if he’d found anything, though.”

“You don’t suppose Mr Bambury could’ve known he was poking around, do you? I mean, if he did, he might’ve been the one who rigged up the electrics – as a way to shut him up…” Penny said, leaning forward.

“Well, how would he have found out, for one? And second, wouldn’t he have rigged the electrics up in Red’s tent instead of yours? I mean, he couldn’t have known that Red was going to go into there first, could he?”

“No, you’re right,” Penny said, thoughtfully sitting back now. “I don’t think he could have.”

“Talking of tents, I’m not sure how I feel about you sleeping in yours again. Even if you haven’t got to worry about being zapped, it’s not exactly secure in there without a lock, is it? What if someone tries to harm you while you’re asleep?”

Penny was about to tell him not to be so silly and overprotective, but when she stopped to think, she wasn’t so sure. After all, someone had got into her mother’s tent. She tried to brush aside the last image of her mother which had imprinted itself in her mind.

“Maybe you should take the van and I can sleep in your tent,” Scott offered.

“That’s very noble of you Scott, but…”

“But what?” Jeez, she was impossible. Talk about an independent woman! Didn’t she realise what danger she could be in?

“Well, I can’t sleep in your van forever, can I?”

“Look, I just want you to be safe,” Scott said.

She was frowning now, wondering what to do for the best. She didn’t want to impose on Scott, but then again, she didn’t want to reject his offer of help, either. And then there was her personal safety to consider. Scott was right. None of them could be too careful right now. “Maybe…” she started thoughtfully, “maybe I could pull something heavy in front of the door inside the tent. Or pile up some pots and pans. Then if anyone did get in through the door, they’d make one hell of a racket.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Scott put down his empty plate with a sigh and stood up. It was obvious Penny wasn’t going to budge. Having said that, it wasn’t such a bad idea she’d come up with.

He picked up a washing-up bowl from the van, threw a towel over his shoulder and walked over to a nearby camping tap to fill it with water. When he returned, he put the bowl on the makeshift ‘bush table’ he’d made using wood from the forest.

“Here,” Scott said, “give us yer plate.”

Penny frowned as he took her empty plate and dunked it into the water. “Do you always wash your dishes with cold water?”

“Force of habit, I guess. When you’re travelling, you always wanna conserve your resources, don’t ya? I only ever heat up my water if I’m washing something greasy… Besides, I think I’m getting used to the cold water over here!” he joked.

Penny smiled. “Did you do quite a lot of travelling in Australia, then?” she asked. But before Scott could answer, Bonnie had rounded the front of his van.

“Sorry to disturb you…” she said tentatively. “It’s just that… Well, I was wondering how Red was doing…”

Penny turned in her chair to see the girl he’d seen Scott with when she came out of the shower block the previous day. And now that she knew it wasn’t Scott who was interested in her, but Red, she regretted having spoken ill of her.

“Have you been to see him in the hospital yet?” Bonnie asked, tucking her hair demurely behind an ear.

When Penny saw the dangly, emerald-green earrings Bonnie was wearing, her eyes flashed with a mixture of surprise and anger. “What the hell do you think you’re doing wearing those earrings?” she said, jumping up suddenly.

“Eh? These’re mine,” Bonnie replied, shocked at Penny’s sudden eruption.

“Oh, they are, are they?” Penny said indignantly. “And just where did you get those from?” She’d love to see how Bonnie was going to answer this – there was no way they were hers. Her grandmother had given those very earrings to her mother when she was younger – and they weren’t exactly ten a penny.

“Well… err… they were a gift,” Bonnie replied hesitantly, reflexively putting a hand to her ear.

“Is that so? Well, I want you to take them off right now!” Penny demanded.

“Y’what?” Bonnie frowned, then looked helplessly at Scott. “What’s going on?”

Scott moved in now. “Just calm down a minute, will ya, and we’ll sort this out,” he said. He wasn’t sure why Penny was acting the way she was, but surely they could talk this through amicably enough – this kind of behaviour wasn’t necessary.

“Scott, you keep out of this. This is between me and her,” she said sharply, giving him a fixed look before honing in on Bonnie. “She knows what this is about. Little Miss Innocent here has got something to do with my mother’s death – haven’t you?” she added, gritting her teeth with hatred now. “And if you don’t take those earrings off right now, I’m going to take them from you.”

Bonnie stood there, looking dazed and confused. What the hell was going on?

By now, Scott was just as lost. He hadn’t even got round to introducing Bonnie to Penny and here she was, acting like some crazed banshee, accusing her of what… murder? How had she managed to jump to that conclusion?

As Bonnie glanced back at Scott for reassurance, Penny made a lunge towards her. “Right! Get those off right now!” she roared, grabbing at Bonnie’s ears.

“Owww!” Bonnie whined as Penny tugged at an earring. Suddenly, Bonnie was in full defence mode, her face grimacing as she pushed back against Penny’s advances. Penny dived back in and Bonnie let out a scream as she tried to wrench the earring off again. Bonnie grabbed Penny’s wrist, attempting to wrestle her off, but Penny was as tenacious as a Jack Russell grappling with a trouser leg and wasn’t about to let this one go.

Scott moved in again, trying to prise the squabbling girls apart, but was roundly shoved aside. “Right, that’s it,” he muttered. He went to the table and picked up the bowl of washing-up water. By the time he turned round, Bonnie was yanking at Penny’s hair in an effort to pull her off, with Penny yelping in pain.

Scott stepped closer and promptly threw the contents of the bowl over the cat-fighting pair. Shocked by the cold water, they immediately ceased their brawling.

“Urgh!” Penny spluttered, brushing hair from her eyes with two fingers, as though it were a pair of wet curtains over her face.

“Right, I’ve just about had enough of this,” Scott said.

“But she…” Penny said, trying to dry her eyes with wet sleeves now.

“I don’t care what yer story is,” he countered. “I want both of you changed into dry clothes and back here in five minutes. Then we’ll sort this thing out in the proper manner… And seeing as you can’t get in your tent yet, Penny, you can borrow some of my clothes.”

“But…” Penny tried arguing again.

“I said five minutes you two,” he repeated firmly, eye-balling both of them.

Penny gritted her jaw and gave Bonnie a daggered look. Out of puff, Bonnie stared back, looking peeved.

“And here,” Scott added, pulling the towel off his shoulder and throwing it at Penny. “Wipe those wet toast crumbs off yer face.”

 

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on,” Bonnie said, breathing a sigh as she sat on one of Scott’s camp chairs twenty minutes later, “but I’m guessing these rightfully belong to you.” She handed the earrings over to Penny, neatly housed in their case.

“When I got back to my tent yesterday, they were sitting there, waiting for me in a gift-wrapped box. And a card just saying “To Bonnie, from an Admirer”. Look, I brought it along to show you.” She passed it over. “None of my mates saw anyone delivering it. I’ve just turned twenty-one, so I thought maybe they were a late birthday present or something. Anyway, green’s my favourite colour and I thought they were just beautiful, so I wore them. I mean, there wasn’t any reason not to.”

Having had some time to calm down and think rationally about things while she was changing, Penny was wondering now whether her feelings about her mother’s death had made her overreact. Had she been hasty and made a terrible error of judgment about Bonnie after all? She sounded sincere enough.

Penny took the open case from her and looked with fond memories at the earrings. “My mother’s favourite colour was green, too,” she sighed.

“Here…” Scott said, putting a steaming cup of tea in front of each of them, “get this down yer neck.” They took the drinks gratefully. “Now, then. What’s all this about Bonnie having something to do with your mother’s death?” he asked as he sat down.

“Well, those earrings aren’t the sort you can get just anywhere. They were definitely my mother’s – she always kept them in this case, too. I was assuming that, whoever took the earrings must’ve taken the camp stove as well – and that person must have been the one who killed Mum – or had something to do with, at least. So, when I saw Bonnie wearing these earrings…” she trailed off, giving a shrug.

“Well, I swear to you, I never had anything to do with your mother dying – or anything going missing,” Bonnie said. “You can ask my mates – some of them were already at the tent when I arrived – the box was already there.”

Penny sighed again then looked Bonnie in the eye for a moment. “Somehow, I think I believe you. And I also think I owe you a huge apology.”

“I’m sorry we fought as well. Anyway, I’m just glad you didn’t draw blood trying to rip those earrings off,” she replied.

“That’s very understanding of you, Bonnie. I’m afraid I haven’t acted nearly as well as I might have.”

“I don’t blame yer,” Bonnie said. “I’d be the same if I thought someone had harmed anyone in my family.”

“So,” Scott interjected, “if Bonnie didn’t take the earrings, who do you reckon did?”

Penny gave a vacant shrug. “Could be anyone. But it’s pretty obvious – whoever took the camp stove must have stolen these earrings. And, from the looks of it,” Penny frowned, “they’re trying to implicate you, Bonnie.”

“But why me? What have I done to anyone?” she said, worried that she might have inadvertently ticked someone off. Someone who was now seeking revenge. “Hey, you don’t reckon my aunt’s cousin, Jim, could’ve had something to do with it, do you?”

“The Fixit guy?” Penny said, exchanging glances with Scott. They’d had a feeling about him.

Bonnie nodded. “I hate to say anything bad about family members, but he’s a funny one, he is… And he doesn’t like me too much, either.” Bonnie leant in closer. “This is just between us, like, but Uncle Marcus said he got chucked out of the army years ago. He wasn’t in for that many years, but from what he told me, I can’t help wondering what kind of shady assignments they must’ve put him on.”

“That’s interesting!” Scott said. “And you did say you saw him the night Penny’s Mum died, didn’t you?” Bonnie nodded thoughtfully.

“I know Red’s had his money on Bambury,” Scott went on, “but somehow I can’t help thinking he’s just an old busybody. Old Fixit boy does look pretty guilty… I mean, just think about it… He’s always hovering about the place. He could easily get in and out of a tent without anyone noticing – especially at night, what with the crappy lights on site. And if anyone quizzed him about it, he could claim he was just working in the area. Either way, I’ll be keeping an eye on him.”

“Well, talking of Mr Fixit,” Penny said, “I bumped into Mrs Musgrave while I was off getting changed – she said the electrics had been checked and everything was all right… Said it must’ve just been a random power surge or something.”

Hmm… Scott thought, thinking back to when he’d checked Penny’s tent earlier. There’s definitely something fishy going on there!

“Anyway, it looks like I can go back to my tent now. So if you’ll both excuse me, I think I’ll get back there and have a rest for a while. Dorian should be here shortly, and it won’t do to greet him looking half haggard from lack of sleep, will it?”

“I wouldn’t worry, we’re not gonna be doing any filming in a hurry, anyway. Not with Red out of the picture,” Scott said.

“Oh, yeah… That’s what I originally came to see you about, in’t it?” Bonnie smiled. “If you let me know what ward he’s in at the hospital, I’ll go and pay Red a visit.”

“I’ll be fetching him back here tomorrow,” Scott said, “but I reckon he’d be real stoked if you dropped in on him before then.”

 

 

CHAPTER 18

 

“Knock, knock,” Scott said as he entered Dorian’s tent. Dorian was dressed wearing his standard fair of burgundy cravat, white shirt and brown corduroys as he unpacked tidily-pressed clothing from a suitcase. He stopped momentarily to look around at the intrusion. “Making yourself at home, I see,” Scott added.

“Well, it’s just as well Penny had the decency to phone me and tell me to bring a tent along. I had intended on using her mother’s,” he said in what seemed to Scott like a condescending voice, “but it turns out the police have taped it off as a crime scene. Surely they don’t really think there’s some impropriety with Sally’s death?”

“Reckon they do,” Scott said, standing there nonchalantly with his bush hat on and hands in his board-shorts pockets, not bothering to fill him in.

Dorian raised his eyebrows, surprised that anyone could possibly want to harm Sally. He’d known her ever since she started with the production company and thought highly of her. She had high standards and was one of the hardest-working people he’d ever met. He’d even asked her out once, back in the early days. After all, she was a classy lady to boot. But she’d rebuffed him – albeit politely – adamant that she didn’t date people she worked with. Besides, she had a youngster to think about now, she’d said. Perhaps it had been for the best, Dorian thought. Still, it didn’t help ease the pain of Sally’s death. Poor Penny, he thought. What she must be going through! And here she is, determined to soldier on in the face of it all.

Dorian started hanging his plain-coloured shirts and corduroy trousers onto a metal rail next to the wall of the tent. His manner was staid and methodical, reminding Scott of some butler in the kind of old black and white movie his mother used to love.

“Oh,” he said, stopping what he was doing to fish a mobile phone out of his suitcase. “This is for you.” He thrust the phone into Scott’s hand. “Courtesy of Frank.”

“What do I need this for?”

“It’s called modern technology, dear boy – you know, for communicating with people?”

“Surprised you know what modern technology is yourself,” Scott replied, put out at having the device thrust upon him.

“Oh, yes,” Dorian reflected, “I expect you are… seeing as I’m such an old fossil.” Dorian raised a satisfied eyebrow as he eyed Scott. He looked guiltily back at Dorian, not knowing what to say.

“Just so you know,” Dorian went on, enjoying seeing Scott’s discomfort, “if you’re going to insult me, you might want to make sure Frank’s not on speaker-phone and that I’m not in the room. Hmm…?”

Just where had Scott got that ‘old fossil’ expression from, anyway? Dorian thought. It wasn’t as if he was that old – was he? Dorian might have been sure of himself most of the time – at least on the outside – but comments like that did make him wonder sometimes. Was he aging much faster or much worse than he’d realised?

After hearing Scott’s jibe on Frank’s speaker-phone, Dorian couldn’t help doing a personal inventory. He ate well, enjoyed some fine wine but not too much, and had managed to avoid getting a paunch by walking part of the way to the office each day. He had all his own teeth. And, unlike so many of his peers who had survived their fiftieth year, he still had all his own hair. Still, with signs of grey creeping in at the edges of his straight brown locks, he had been considering whether it was best to leave it and age gracefully or ask his barber about getting it touched up with a bit of dye.

Scott felt a knot in his stomach, knowing he should apologise to Dorian for his ill thought-out comment, but he couldn’t help baulking at doing so to someone so overtly patronising and humourless. But then again, Frank wasn’t sure how long he’d have to work with the guy. If it ended up being longer than expected, it’d be a nightmare on set if he didn’t smooth things over now. Maybe he should just swallow his pride and be done with it.

He considered the alternatives for a moment. Jack it all in and go back to Australia. Lay his head low in the bush up at his grandfather’s for a while. Maybe spend some time surfing up the coast catching up with his mates. Scott gritted his jaw. Rip was right. A few blood-thirsty media hounds were bound to track him down wherever he went if he stayed in Australia, hungry for a story. Besides, he’d made a commitment to be on the show, and despite his yearning to bolt for freedom right now, he wasn’t going to go back on his word.

“Look, I didn’t mean it quite like that…” Scott began, as Dorian dropped the burgundy silk dressing gown he had in his hand now onto the camp bed and turned to him in a huff.

“Look here! None of this was my idea, believe me. I’ve given up a much-needed holiday in order to be here,” Dorian bristled, shooting him an irritated glance. “Not that I wouldn’t want to help out at a time like this,” he said in a low voice before taking it back up a notch. “So, if you have any complaints, you can use your shiny new phone to give Frank a call.”

Still annoyed, he turned back to pick up his silk dressing gown and put it on a hanger. “Oh, and while you’re there,” he added sarcastically, “be sure and let him know I’ll be sending that ‘babysitting report’ down later today, won’t you, dear boy?”

“All right, all right! Keep your hair on!” Scott said, holding his hands up in mock surrender.

“Look,” Dorian said, pausing then blowing out a sigh, “I’ve spent the last several hours driving up here. I’m tired and I’m hungry, so if you don’t mind, I’d just like to wind down and finish unpacking.”

“No worries. I get the picture,” Scott replied, thankful Dorian’s temper had been taken down a peg. “I only came in here to let you know I’m putting on a barbie later, anyway. So come along if yer like. It’s all on the house.”

Scott gave the phone a brief, resentful frown before pocketing it, and walked out, a flicker of a thought on his mind. That babysitting report thing wasn’t for real, was it? Nah, couldn’t be! He shook the idea from his head. Dorian was just tired and pissed off – and, for some reason, Scott just seemed to have a knack of stirring him up even more.

Dorian lowered the silk dressing gown in his hand as he left and stared after him, shaking his head. He barely knew Scott, but already he was wondering what on earth he was going to do with the young maverick.

 

 

CHAPTER 19

 

“Hope I’m not intruding, Miss Gosling,” Inspector Dodd asked as he stuck his head in through the open doorway of Penny’s tent later and saw her sitting inside with Scott. “Ahm, may I have a word?”

“Certainly, inspector. Come on in,” she replied, putting down the clipboard she was holding onto the table and getting up from her chair. This was unexpected. Maybe he had some news, she thought as he stepped inside.

“On your own today?” she asked.

“That’s right. One of my officers is back in the car…”

“Oh, please mind my manners. Would you like some tea?” Penny said, interrupting him.

“Err… Nothing to drink for me, thank you.”

Scott got up and offered his chair to the inspector and sat down on Penny’s tidily made-up camp bed.

“I expect you’re here to talk about the results of the fingerprint testing your colleague did yesterday?” she said with a hopeful smile as she sat back down.

“Ah, no. But, I must say, I do like your optimism, Miss Gosling. I’m afraid, our budget doesn’t stretch to processing results with such quick turnarounds – not even for fingerprinting. Unfortunately, the latest technology hasn’t been rolled out our way yet.”

“Oh!” She looked disappointed.

An instant later, she and the inspector jumped up from their chairs when Scott shot his catapult at the tent wall. They looked confused when they heard a cry of pain and watched Scott run outside. He came back in, seconds later, pulling Mr Fixit painfully by the ear.

“Get off me!” Mr Fixit shouted as he squirmed.

“I saw a shadow on the side of the tent,” Scott explained, letting go of his ear now. “This little fella’s been hovering about outside, listening in to our conversation,” he added, looking satisfied.

“I wasn’t listening in!” Mr Fixit protested, not knowing which part of his anatomy to rub first. His sore ear or his throbbing backside. The catapult Scott used may have been small, but it had stung him good and proper through the thin canvas.

“I was just… checking those electric cables…” he flustered. “You know, just in case. I had a report that there was a problem with the electrics the other night.”

“Yeah, well, I reckon you’ve got some explaining to do,” Scott said in an accusing voice. “Bit of a coincidence, isn’t it? You being seen around here the night we had those ‘electrical problems’. Wadda ya reckon to that?”

The inspector listened with interest. He had heard about their colleague having an electric shock, but no one had alluded to it being anything but accidental.

“I was out fixing the lights round the place that night. Nothing untoward in that.”

“A likely story,” Scott said. “You were seen leaving Penny’s tent.”

“Oh, yeah? By who?” he countered.

“Your niece, Bonnie,” Scott replied.

Mr Fixit went quiet. There was no way he could wriggle out of that one. The goody two-shoes little snitch, he thought. He might have been related to her, but it was only by marriage. She was definitely more like her Uncle Marcus, that was for sure – always on about ‘doing the right thing’. It got on his nerves.

“Well, if you must know, Mrs Musgrave found something you’d left behind in the showers,” Mr Fixit said, turning to Penny and looking more confident now. “A flannel it was. She asked me to drop it back to you but you weren’t in, so I left in on the table there,” he explained, pointing across the space.

“Well, I don’t recall… But I can’t say for sure,” Penny replied, searching her memory and looking at the inspector uncertainly. She’d had so much going on lately that the whereabouts of a flannel was the last thing on her mind.

“Inspector,” Scott said firmly, hoping the obvious culprit wasn’t going to get away with things so easily, “that bloke’s as guilty as hell. Just look at his face, will ya?” Mr Fixit gave Scott a daggered look, unwittingly exaggerating his menacing features.

“Well, he may look guilty , Mr Chevalier, but I can assure you, he hasn’t got anything to do with Mrs Gosling’s death,” the inspector said. “That’s what I came to talk to you about…” he said, turning to Penny now. “Mr Musgrave confessed to everything – just a short while ago.”

Penny and Scott exchanged curious glances.

“I came here a little while ago to update you on some progress we’ve made,” the inspector went on, “and when I went through the reception, Mr Musgrave asked me how the case was going. I said we’d had an anonymous tip-off as to the whereabouts of that camp stove. We were told it would point straight to the killer. Well, I couldn’t believe it. Mr Musgrave didn’t even flinch – just turned himself in – right there and then on the spot. I’ve got him in the police car right now with one of my officers.”

“Sounds a bit strange. So… what? He confessed – just like that?” Scott said, disappointed that he’d got it wrong. He couldn’t believe Mr Fixit wasn’t involved somehow.

“That’s right. But that sort of thing isn’t as uncommon as you might think,” the inspector replied. “There’s one classic case – a bit gruesome, really… This bloke was murdering people left, right and centre one time. Tried flushing away their bodies bit by bit, but he ended up blocking the drains.” Penny cringed. Did he really have to tell this story? It was like something out of a horror movie – and she wasn’t keen on those at all.

“Anyway, a plumber investigated the drains,” the inspector continued almost enthusiastically, oblivious to her discomfort, “and the police eventually caught up with the man. The minute they called round at his house, he confessed – didn’t even bat an eyelid.”

He looked around now to see that Penny’s face was a mixture of revulsion and surprise. Hmm… Maybe that was enough of the gory police accounts. His wife was always telling him off for that.

Penny tried to ignore the mental images conjured up by the inspector’s macabre anecdote, and turned to think instead about Mr Musgrave. It seemed unreal to think he’d been responsible for killing her mother. After all, he’d seemed so nice… so, well, normal.

“So am I free to go?” Mr Fixit said gruffly, impatient to get away.

The inspector raised an eyebrow, not sure what to make of the man. “It would seem so,” he said reluctantly.

“I should have you up for GBH,” Mr Fixit sneered at Scott, looking down at his catapult. He baulked at getting involved with the police at the best of times, but there was no way a large man like him would live it down if word got out that he’d tried filing charges against a comparative weakling like him. He threw Scott and Penny one last vengeful look then made a swift exit through the tent-flap.

“So it turns out you were right all along, Miss Gosling,” the inspector added, turning to Penny now. “There was foul play after all.”

Penny paused to take it all in. “Did Mr Musgrave give a reason as to why he did it?” she said, creasing her brow.

“When I sat with him in the car, he said he’d had an affair with your mother years ago. Apparently, she turned up on site out of the blue, threatening to spill the beans to his missus. So later that night, he went into her tent and rigged up the camp stove.”

“Hey, wait a minute!” Scott said, his mind suddenly a whirr. “It all makes sense now… When we were first taking a look around Sally’s tent, I copped some powdery substance on the floor – and it looked and smelled like sawdust. I was about to mention it to you, inspector, when Penny ran out – and I’d almost forgotten about it until now.”

“Yes, I noticed that. I got Officer Turnbull to take a sample, although I wasn’t sure whether it was important or not.”

“But now Mr Musgrave’s confessed, it all makes perfect sense! When I first met him, I just thought he had bad dandruff. But now I realise it was fine particles of sawdust from the building work he’s been doing on that large shed over the other side of the site.” The inspector listened with interest, although he hadn’t seen the shed Scott was talking about.

“In fact…” Scott continued thoughtfully, “when Mr Musgrave came to see you at your tent, Penny, he had some of it on his trouser leg, too.”

“It’s amazing what details we misread or don’t notice when we’re not looking for them,” the inspector mused.

“So what you’re saying,” Penny said, “is that when Mr Musgrave went into Mum’s tent that night, he unwittingly left some of it behind.” Scott nodded, with a hint of pride and satisfaction that the case had been wrapped up now.

“Well, at least we’ve got him now and no one else has got hurt… You don’t know what lengths people will go to sometimes, just to keep a secret,” the inspector said, shaking his head in sad contemplation. Penny noticed his expression, hoping he wasn’t going to dredge up another ghastly tale to illustrate the point.

“I suppose,” he continued, his tone lightening now, “I’d best get back to the station before the news breaks out that we’ve caught the killer. In a small town like this, the reporters will be descending like a rabid flock of seagulls on a discarded packet of chips… Anyway, please accept my condolences once again, Miss Gosling. If there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

The inspector made to leave. He paused and turned to Scott with a thoughtful look. “Looks like you’ve got a rather lethal little device there, young man,” he said looking down at the catapult still in Scott’s hand.

“Ah, just a kid’s toy, really,” Scott shrugged. Another white lie. He was well aware that catapults were one of the most underestimated weapons. “Made this one myself,” he added, trying to make light of it.

The inspector raised an eyebrow. “Well, watch you don’t go taking anyone’s eye out with that thing,” he said, stepping into the doorway then turning back thoughtfully. “And, err… if you’re going to use that ‘toy’ to keep the local seagull population at bay – and I’m not suggesting you do, mind – try not to do it when Mr Bambury’s around, will you? Mr Musgrave’s already generated enough paperwork to see me through the summer, so I’d rather that old pest didn’t come round to complain again and add to the pile,” he added, trying to hide a smile. “Right… Best be off.”

“I’d better be going, too,” Scott said once the inspector had left the tent. “Gotta go pick up Red from the hospital.”

“I’ll come with you… if that’s all right,” Penny said reservedly. “I feel a bit strange now it’s all over. I could do with the company.”

 

 

CHAPTER 20

 

“Well, now we know that Mr Musgrave was responsible for your mother’s death, it does explain a few things,” Scott said later whilst tending a barbecue outside Penny’s tent, the front flap now up to make an awning.

Penny and Red sat around on camp chairs, everyone wearing fleece jackets to keep the cool of the evening at bay. It almost felt like there was a touch of winter in the air – crisp and clear.

“Your Mum obviously didn’t pick this site just for the filming opportunities,” Scott went on, “she must’ve picked it so she could meet up with Mr Musgrave.” He turned the sausages on the grill and had a vegetable kebab roasting on the side especially for Red.

“Yeah, Sally must’ve gone looking for your father, Penny,” Red said, “and traced him back to this site. Just your bad luck that he happened to live way up here in Northumberland, Scott. In normal circumstances, I’m sure she would’ve picked a warmer location for the show – somewhere down south – especially as you’re still acclimatising. You poor bugger,” he added, cracking open a bottle of brown ale, “to think how you’ve been freezing your rocks off all this time!”

“Well, I bought myself a new wetsuit today – and a nice warm doona… sorry, ‘duvet’, to use at night,” Scott replied. “So I reckon I’m gonna be toasty all round now.”

“So…” Penny said thoughtfully moving back to topic, “it seems I was right about the camp stove, but what about the electrics? Do you think Mr Musgrave was trying to kill me as well as Mum? Or was it just a coincidence? Some dodgy wiring or something?” She still felt shaken up by the whole thing.

“There was way too much water on the floor of your tent for that to have been an accident, that’s for sure,” Scott replied, prodding at the barbecue.

“But if that’s true, then what I can’t quite work out is why?” Penny said, desperate to understand the truth. “Why on earth would Mr Musgrave want to kill me as well? I’ve never done anything to hurt him. You don’t think he thought I knew about the affair between him and Mum and was going to tell his wife, do you?”

“I think I might know why,” Red said softly. Penny’s head turned to look at him, unsure how to read his expression. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you…” His voice sounded ominous. He had Scott’s full attention as well now.

“The other day… when I was filming round the site. I saw a man arguing with your mum. He was partially hidden by a bush, but I later realised it was Mr Musgrave… Penny, I don’t think he killed your mum because he thought she was going to tell his wife about the affair,” he said, giving her a painful look. A knot formed in her stomach. He was about to say something she wasn’t going to like. “I think he killed her because she was going to tell his wife… that he’s your father.”

Penny looked stunned, but she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. “Are you kidding, mate?” Scott said.

“Well, I’m as sure as I can be. When I was filming that day, I was a little way off so I couldn’t hear very well. At the time, I thought I must’ve misheard. After all, it was pretty unbelievable. But then your mum died, and things started going wrong, so I began to wonder… Luckily, I’d taken the tape out of my camera before it got sabotaged, and when I got round to playing back the footage, I boosted the sound and realised I’d heard it right after all. The bloke she was with definitely had a northern accent, Penny, and all I could see at the time was his arm sticking out from a bush. When I replayed it and zoomed in, though, I could see his sleeve – and it was green with a site logo on it. As far as I know, Mr Musgrave’s the only bloke who works on the site and wears one of those shirts – so it had to be him your mum was arguing with.”

“But you must be mistaken. [Mr Musgrave _]can’t be my father!” Penny’s mind was spinning now. “I mean, how can that _be? My father was a military man, not some campsite owner.” She shook her head in confusion. “Mum said the relationship between her and my father never came to anything because he travelled a lot with his work. Apparently he never kept in touch – “disappeared into obscurity” is how she put it.”

“Did she ever tell you his name?” Scott frowned.

“No, she never did. Said it was better that way… So,” Penny asked Red, still disbelieving her ears, “are you trying to tell me that everything Mum told me was a lie?” She paused to take it all in. “I mean, if what you’re saying is true, how on earth did Mr Musgrave of all people end up being my father?”

Red gave a resigned shrug and a sigh as Scott served up the barbecue offerings.

“Eh, I hope you haven’t been smearing sausage fat all over my veggie kebab,” Red said.

“You don’t want any? It’ll flavour it up a bit,” Scott teased as Red took the plate offered to him and tucked in hungrily. Scott gave Penny her food, put the barbecue tongs on the table and sat down to join them.

“Y’know,” Scott added, adopting the proper tone when he saw how difficult Penny was finding all this, “Mr Musgrave did mention something about having worked on film sets years ago. If he is your father, maybe that’s how he met your mother.”

Penny abruptly dropped the food back down onto the plate on her lap. “I’m sorry about this, Scott. I’m not sure I can eat anything tonight. I just can’t take everything in.”

“I don’t blame yer,” Red said. “This has been a pretty heavy few days. I mean, if I’m feeling shook up, God knows what you must be feeling like.”

Penny looked down at her plate, a messy knot of emotion in her stomach. Not only had her mother just died, but she might even have discovered who her father was. A man who was about to be convicted of murdering her mother.

“Goodness! Something smells good!” Dorian announced enthusiastically, suddenly appearing out of nowhere. “I’m glad to say I’m all unpacked and rested – and absolutely famished. Any food going spare?”

He looked around at their faces, suddenly sensing he’d walked in on something.

“Ahh… Have I missed something?”

 

 

CHAPTER 21

 

After finding her mother dead, Penny had assumed things couldn’t get any worse. But after the inspector’s visit, and Red’s shocking revelation earlier that evening, it looked like she was being proved wrong. Just how many more surprises were there going to be?

Alone now after everyone had left for their own dwellings, Penny hugged her fleece close for warmth and comfort, then looked up at the still night sky filled with stars as she pondered the last few days.

She recalled that last morning before her mother had died. How she’d mentioned that there was something she wanted to discuss while they were up here – something important about her future. Penny just thought she wanted to talk about her career. After all, she’d been working with the production company throughout her filmmaking studies, and now that she’d finished the final year of her degree, there was a lot to think about.

But now that Penny looked back on it, she wondered whether the conversation her mother had planned was going to be about something entirely different. Had she intended to speak with her about Mr Musgrave – to unveil him as her father? She’d never know now. So much had gone on that last day of her mother’s life that the discussion had never transpired. She’d gone to bed early with a headache, never to speak with Penny again.

Well, at least she now knew why her mother died. Or thought she did. Even so, it didn’t make the cold hard fact of her death any easier to bear. Nor would it ever erase that horrifying final image of her mother’s face that was etched in her memory.

Penny unhitched the flap from the front of her tent which they’d used as a small awning, then zipped it back into place. Exhausted, she went into the tent to fetch her night-bag and towel. But as she made to leave the tent, she jolted in fright when she saw Mr Bambury blocking the doorway.

“Hello, Miss Gosling,” he said with an eerie, confident smile. Surrounded by the darkness outside, he cut an intimidating figure. Penny moved back, his voice sending a wave of dread through her.

“Oh, I know your name, all right,” he said, seeing her surprise. “I make it my business to know everything that goes on around here. May I come in?” The question was rhetorical. Penny’s mind was racing as he took a step towards her.

“As you can see, I’ve decided to leave my beloved Lassie at home tonight,” Mr Bambury said, moving slowly into the tent. Penny felt a knot of dread as he smoothed down his leather gloves and noticed he was wearing all black this evening in contrast with his usual beige. “Yes,” he said, “I thought we could have a little chat – alone.”

Penny took a couple of steps back as he moved in on her. How on earth was she going to get out of here?

 

“I still can’t believe Uncle Marcus is a killer,” Bonnie said, shaking her head sadly, as she came to a standstill outside the shower block. She’d popped over to see Red for a while before turning in and was now with him and Scott, standing in the light of the small brick building.

“My Mum and Aunt Agatha are beside themselves. Looks like I’m going to have a lot of practice with my counselling skills – probably even need counselling myself at this rate,” she added, trying to make light of a gloomy situation.

The lads nodded sympathetically. “God knows what my aunt’s going to do now. This site’s too much for her to run – even if she has got her cousin Jim around to help out. She’ll fall apart without Uncle Marcus. Mum said she had a bit of a nervous breakdown when she lost the baby years ago, so goodness knows what she’s going to be like now.”

Red looked up to see one of Bonnie’s friends approaching out of the darkness. She was clad in a low-cut top and black leggings which were stretched so tight, you could almost see the colour of her skin underneath as she waddled incoherently along the path.

Oh, God! _]Scott thought. [_Not Brenda again!

 

“I must say, it was rather kind of you to send the inspector my way for his investigations,” Mr Bambury said, his tinted eye-glasses glinting menacingly under the solitary bulb in the tent. “And I suppose you must be curious about your mother’s killer by now, Miss Gosling,” he added, a knowing smile playing at the side of his mouth. “Well, I’m sure you’re an intelligent woman. So it must be obvious by now that Mr Musgrave isn’t the one you’re after.”

Penny was not only terrified by now but her mind was in disarray. Could the police have got the wrong man after all? Arrested Mr Musgrave when they should’ve been looking to Mr Bambury? None of it made any sense. If Mr Musgrave wasn’t to blame, why had he confessed?

“Why don’t you take a seat, Miss Gosling? You look tired. We’ll keep the lights nice and low, shall we? Don’t want anyone disturbing our little tête-a-tête, now, do we?” he continued, offering her a chair whilst continuing to stand.

The man was clearly mad – and, by now, Penny knew he couldn’t be reasoned with. Her throat felt dry. There were three others in her crew camping nearby. And yet they felt so far away. She looked down at Mr Bambury’s gloves, black and intimidating in the shadowy light. Would she even be able to get out a scream before she was silenced? Her eyes darted about, looking for a way out. But she was cornered.

 

Scott’s heart sank as he watched Brenda weaving towards them. Ever since Bonnie had first introduced her to him, she seemed to be around every corner, trying to get his attention.

“Me and the girls were wondering where you’d been all this time,” Brenda said to Bonnie as she reached them.

“Crikey! How many have you had to drink since I left?” she said, reeling at Brenda’s boozy breath and trying to waft it away. Her slurred voice and wilting appearance gave the impression that she’d downed a week’s worth of alcoholic units within the last few hours.

“Evenin’, Tiger!” Brenda said, trying to sound sexy as she flopped towards Scott. Bonnie looked at Scott and Red and gave an awkward, apologetic smile then glanced down and tucked her hair behind an ear. She’d only introduced her to Scott in the first place because she was the only one, apart from herself, who didn’t have a boyfriend, and she felt sorry for her. What a monumental cock-up that was turning out to be! She was behaving like an overweight praying mantis. Bonnie couldn’t remember her being like this back in school – Brenda had always been such a kind and bubbly girl once you got to know her, but was otherwise rather shy.

“So,” Brenda said, leering a predatory eye on Scott as she smoothed his cheek, “what you doing tonight, big boy?”

 

Penny gritted her jaw now, despite her fear. “You come in here, terrifying me out of my skin, and now you trying to tell me… what? That you didn’t kill my mother?” she said to Mr Bambury a few minutes later, after sitting down at his sinister invitation. What the hell was going on here? Was Mr Musgrave the killer, or was it Mr Bambury?

“I’m sure you’d like to believe that it was me, wouldn’t you, Miss Gosling? But, just in case the police come knocking at my door, I’ve got proof to the contrary… That camp stove is locked away somewhere nice and safe – and it’s all the incriminating evidence I need to… well, shall we say, make a few changes around here,” he said confidently, rubbing his gloved hands together.

He was looking extremely pleased with himself when, a second later, there was a loud, dull metallic thud behind him.

Mr Bambury’s confident smile faded as his body slumped onto the floor, leaving the petite frame of Mrs Musgrave standing behind him. She looked down at him with a hateful grimace, her two small hands clutched around the handle of the large frying pan she’d taken off a table in the tent. Who’d have thought such a small woman would’ve been able to take down Mr Bambury?

“Oh, thank goodness!” Penny cried with relief, slumping back on the chair and looking down at Mr Bambury’s comatose body. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t come along.”

“I’ve wanted to do that for a very, very long time,” Mrs Musgrave said with simple satisfaction, replacing the pan on the table. “But there doesn’t seem much point holding back – not now that Marcus has gone.” Penny looked at the woman, feeling pity. Not only must she have learnt all the gruelling facts about her mother from the police by now, but her husband had turned himself in as a cold-blooded murderer. As far as Mrs Musgrave was concerned, he was lost to her.

Penny watched as the woman’s hand moved away from the frying pan handle and hovered over a set of knives laid out on the table, their blades catching a glint of light from the bulb. A solitary finger danced over the knives now, almost teasingly. [_What was she doing? _]Penny thought, a sickening twist roiling in her gut.

With one swift movement, Mrs Musgrave picked up the largest knife and swivelled round with it.

What the…?

“You couldn’t stay away, could you?… You and that mother of yours,” Mrs Musgrave said, her voice bitter as the shadows from the bulb played eerily on her face, sharpening her features.

Penny shook her head. “What do you mean?” she said, both confused and frightened now.

“Me and Marcus were doing fine all these years. And then you come along and try to take him away from me.”

Penny’s eyes were riveted on the sharp point of the knife as Mrs Musgrave waved it about. Surely she wasn’t going to do anything stupid with it…? Either way, it was clear from Mrs Musgrave’s crouching stance that she wasn’t planning on using the knife to cut up food for a kebab.

“But I soon put a stop to that,” Mrs Musgrave said, her voice full of venom now. “It wasn’t difficult to move the camp stove into her tent. She was dead to the world – if you’ll pardon the pun,” she added sarcastically. “And this little pipsqueak here,” she tapped a foot against Mr Bambury’s body, “thought he could hide it away and blackmail me with it.” She gave a vicious laugh.

Penny edged herself slowly from the chair as the woman glanced down at Mr Bambury, trying to get as much distance between her and the knife blade, as she realised the implications of what the woman was saying. If she had killed her mother after all, there was no reason to assume she wouldn’t use the knife on her as well.

Mrs Musgrave spotted Penny’s movements and took a lunging step towards her, clutching firmly at the knife as she wielded it close to her face.

“So… were you the one who killed that poor person last year as well?” Penny said, keeping her voice as calm as possible despite her terror. Mrs Musgrave gave a confused look. “The one who died from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Penny explained, trying to keep her talking as her mind raced to figure a way out of this. Maybe she could make a run for it, but the knife just seemed to loom ever closer.

“Oh, that! That was an accident. But it gave me the idea, all right. Funny how things work out, in’t it?” she gave a strange smile. “Marcus is the best thing that ever happened to me. He’s always been too good, that man, wanting to do the right thing. But now he’s gone – and it’s all because of you,” she said bitterly. “No doubt he thought he’d confess to save me. As a way to pay me back for his mistakes. But what am I supposed to do without him?” she said in sad tones. She looked deflated, her gaze far off now.

But an instant later, she’d snapped out of it. “You’ve taken away everything I ever loved,” she spat, “and now you’re going to pay – just like that mother of yours did. If it weren’t for you two coming here and stirring things up, Marcus wouldn’t be in prison now.”

A soft groan came from Mr Bambury. Mrs Musgrave and Penny turned their heads towards him. In a heartbeat, Penny realised this was her chance to get out of there. Mrs Musgrave was flustered for a moment, torn between the stirring Mr Bambury and Penny who was now making a break for it.

Mrs Musgrave gave chase, grabbing at Penny’s fleece as she reached the open doorflap. Penny cried out in desperation, hoping someone would hear her, imagining a knife about to stab into her back at any moment.

Somehow, she managed to pull herself out of the fleece and scrambled out through the doorway into the gloom, with only the meagre site lights to help her. Mrs Musgrave still had the fleece in her hand when Mr Bambury stirred again. She knew she should go after Penny, but the temptation to bop Mr Bambury on the head again was too great. She swiftly threw the fleece to the side and grabbed the pan with her free hand just as he was trying to get up.

“The inter-fering-busy-body!” she said, rhythmically cracking him over the skull to the beat of the words. Mr Bambury fell back to the floor and Mrs Musgrave hastened out the door.

[_The girl can’t get far without her car keys, _]she thought. And she knew that Scott and Red weren’t in their dwellings. She’d seen them up at the toilet block as she’d walked over earlier, hidden from sight. But Mrs Musgrave had been way too confident in her estimation. She hadn’t banked on Penny escaping and someone hearing her cries.

As she exited the tent and began to chase after Penny with the knife, she heard a man’s voice shouting after her. Her head swivelled round and her body twisted as she hurtled forward, tripping on the guy-rope of a tent. Her body landed hard on the grass, the knife flying from her hand.

The figure was still shouting and she squinted behind her again. He was barely lit by the low-lights but she could see enough to tell that it was Scott, and he was sprinting full-tilt in her direction, unwavering as a road-train on a dusty desert road in the Outback.

Scott didn’t know what the trouble was – only that he could hear Penny’s desperate cries from a distance – just like he’d done the morning she’d found her mother dead. But when he drew nearer to the source of Penny’s cries, he saw Mrs Musgrave with an angry look on her face. And her hand was now reaching for a knife on the ground.

Instinctively, Scott pulled out his catapult and landed a stone on the woman’s hand as she was about to pick up the knife. She screamed out at the unexpected sting, scowling at him in pain. Scott continued running towards her and she was suddenly panicked, realising she was scuppered if she didn’t get out of there.

As fast as she could, she got up and turned to run. The best she could hope for right now was to escape and find somewhere to hide, she thought as she started off in the direction of the dark woods. The hunter was now the prey.

But Scott was a quick mover, and pounced on the knife. He lifted it up, swivelled it round so the handle faced forward, then threw it towards the woman’s fleeing form, straight, like a spear. Mrs Musgrave’s body crumpled as the wooden handle thumped at her head.

Penny had been hiding somewhere ahead, at the edge of the woods. When she heard Scott crying out to her, and saw the flash of a torch, she made her way towards the light.

Relief washed through her as she emerged from the darkness to see Scott standing over Mrs Musgrave’s lifeless form.

“She’ll be right,” Scott said as she collapsed into his arms. Thank goodness. It was finally over.

 

When he heard Penny’s cries, Red followed on behind Scott. God, I’m out of shape! he wheezed, trying to keep up. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Scott and Penny standing there in the dim light, looking down at Mrs Musgrave’s inert body.

Crikey! What’s going on here?

Everyone turned to hear the sound of a zip coming from Dorian’s nearby tent and he emerged in a silk dressing gown and matching eye-patches. Woken by the commotion, he’d followed the sounds in a cloudy half-sleep. He looked like a zombie as he stepped out, falling straight over a guy-rope.

Dorian lifted himself up on one arm, pulled the eye-patch fully up and looked around at the scene in confusion.

“Err… Have I missed something?”

 

 

CHAPTER 22

 

“I still can’t help feeling I’m the one responsible for your mother’s death,” Mr Musgrave sighed to Penny as he stared into the steam rising from his mug of tea. They were sitting outside her tent with the awning up the next day with Scott, Red and Bonnie; and the inspector had not long left after dropping Mr Musgrave back at the campsite.

“Why on earth did you confess to the murder?” Penny asked, taking off her sunglasses now that the clouds were blocking the sun.

“Stupid, really, now I think about it. I eventually guessed Agatha was the one who’d killed your mother… It all started with that cousin of hers, Jim – Mr Fixit as you know him – I overheard him telling her that he’d seen your mother and me together by the shower block – and he’d heard every word. I was bracing myself, waiting for Agatha to bring up the subject and take me to task on it, but strangely she never did. Then, after your mother died and the inspector said there might be foul play, I started putting two and two together. I thought by turning myself in, I’d protect Agatha – I knew if she got caught she wouldn’t be able to cope.”

“She lost her baby years ago,” Bonnie interjected, “didn’t she Uncle Marcus? Mum said she took it really badly when she was told she couldn’t have any more. Ended up having a nervous breakdown.”

“That’s right. And she’s never been the same since. She wouldn’t even have kids on the site – it was too much of a reminder,” Mr Musgrave continued. “I thought prison would be her final undoing. Of course, when I confessed, I hadn’t realised that she still had you in her sights,” he replied, looking up at Penny apologetically. “I thought she was just after Sally.”

“Well, now we know better,” Red said. “That Jim’ll Fixit relation of yours did a good job in rigging up the electrics in Penny’s tent… Just as well I didn’t sit on anything made of metal – otherwise who knows what parts of my anatomy might’ve been roasted!” he added with a relieved smile.

“Looks like Jim was trying to protect my aunt in his own way as well,” Bonnie said thoughtfully, looking at her uncle. “Aunt Agatha broke down and told the police everything,” she explained to the others, “although it sounds, from what the inspector said, that Jim might still get off lightly – it’s her word against his, in’t it?” The group paused to take it all in, sipping quietly at their drinks for a while as they did so.

“So, where on earth did all this start, Mr Musgrave?” Scott asked, breaking the silence. “You said you worked on film sets years ago – is that where you and Sally met?”

Mr Musgrave nodded, looking back down at his mug, his thoughts drifting with the steam trails. “Sally was working on a shoot down south. She was a beautiful woman – looked just like young Penny here,” he glanced up at her with shy affection. “Well, it was like something out of a romance novel, I suppose. Err… Not that I’ve actually read any, like,” he looked timidly around the group. “Anyway, we fell head over heels but I was engaged to Agatha at the time, see. So I promised Sally I’d tell Agatha about us when I went back home. Break the news to her, face to face, like. Well, you can imagine how I felt when I came back up here only for Agatha to break some news of her own – she was pregnant… I was torn apart.” He paused to sigh, feeling the weight of the past.

“Anyway, I wanted to do the right thing, so I phoned Sally to tell her it was all over. I explained the situation, but your mum never said a word,” he said, looking at Penny. “She just hung up the phone. I never heard from her again – not till you came up here to the site, anyway.”

“It’s sort of ironic,” Mr Musgrave continued, shaking his head bitterly. “Agatha ended up having a miscarriage not long after. And when Sally appeared on site out of the blue, I found out that she’d been pregnant with my child – and later had you, Penny.”

“Before she died, Mum said she wanted to discuss something important,” Penny said. “I just thought it was about what I was going to do now I’ve finished my degree. But now all this has happened, I realise she was trying to tell me about my dad – about you. Knowing Mum, she was probably trying to protect me all these years – not jeopardise my studies with emotional upset.”

Penny paused for reflection. “Mum always told me my father was in the forces and travelled a lot, so the relationship had never worked out. I can’t believe my real dad’s been living up-country – on the doorstep, as it were – all this time,” she said, shaking her head as she hugged her mug of tea.

“Now I look back on it, Mum was pretty canny about the whole thing,” Penny went on, narrowing her eyes. “She even got me to phone up the site and make the booking. I don’t suppose she wanted you to recognise her voice if you picked up the phone.” She looked at Mr Musgrave.

“As it happens, I didn’t take that booking – Agatha did,” he said, “but when I noticed the name on the booking sheet, I couldn’t help but think of your mother – after all, it’s not a name you come across every day. I couldn’t believe it when I actually saw her on site… I have to admit, my heart did skip a beat – she hadn’t changed a bit. Then she said she wanted to talk with me – in private, like. As you can imagine, I couldn’t exactly duck back to reception and sit in my office with another woman, could I? Not that there was anything going on, mind. So I suggested meeting over by the far toilet block where it’s a bit quieter. Well, we hugged, and then I thought she was just going to chat about old times. But then she started telling me the news… She’d had a baby after I left, and I was the father. She was very matter-of-fact about it. But it was quite a revelation for me, I can tell you.” He paused to reflect before going on.

“I’m sorry to say I got angry… All this time – why hadn’t she told me? Then I got even more angry – I was scared she was going to tell Agatha. Anyway, it didn’t end well, so I went to her tent that night to try and reason with her. She had a camping light on in her tent, so I called out to see if she was in. When there was no reply, I opened the doorflap and went in, but she was fast asleep – lightly snoring. So I thought it best to leave her and try speaking with her again the next day – the sooner, the better. The way I saw it, if news got out to Agatha, it would’ve torn her apart… And, as it turns out, I was right on that score.”

“You weren’t to know, Uncle Marcus,” Bonnie piped up in his defence. “I think Aunt Agatha’s what you’d call a tortured soul… But at least she’ll be able to get the help she needs now. We’ll make sure of that,” she added, reaching across to give him a reassuring touch of the arm.

“I still can’t get over it…” Penny said, almost to herself. “All these years, my real dad was only a few hours’ drive away.”

“Well,” Bonnie said, “he’s here now, that’s what matters… Although, saying that, we do have to get back to the reception, don’t we Uncle Marcus?”

“Oh… Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he said, snapping out of his thoughts. He stood up and put his empty mug down on the camp table nearby.

“I’ve offered to help Uncle Marcus – your dad – for the rest of the summer holidays – y’know, just while I’m not studying…” Bonnie said, looking at Penny as she got up from her chair. “So we’ll be able to spend some time together while you’re finishing your shoot up here if you like.” Penny nodded gratefully.

“Hey, talking about filming,” Red said, “how long do you think that Mr Bambury’s going to be in hospital?… Only I’m just wondering how much of a window we’ve got before he comes back and starts harassing us again.”

“I have a feeling,” Mr Musgrave smiled with humble confidence, “that our Mr Bambury isn’t going to be quite the nuisance he once was.” He looked around the group to see curious faces. “The police told me what Agatha had done to him, so as soon as they let me out of jail, I popped in to see him at the hospital – it was on the way home anyway. I know he’s made our lives a living hell in the past, but he didn’t deserve to be nearly bashed to death. To be honest, I thought he was gonna scream the place down when he saw me and was going to threaten to sue us or something… Well, I swear to God, I’ve never seen the man seem so, well… personableHe was the one who started apologising to me, if you can believe it. He admitted taking the camp stove and Sally’s earrings, and even confessed to damaging that camera of yours, Red. He was most apologetic. Said he’ll be happy to pay you twice the going rate for a replacement – if you’ll agree not to press charges.”

Red and Penny exchanged glances. Neither of them felt particularly enamoured of Mr Bambury, but after all they’d gone through, Penny thought, maybe it might be best to just take the offer and move on. In any case, if her new-found father could be so forgiving after all he’d been through, then maybe she should take a leaf out of his book.

“I’m sure we can come to some arrangement,” Penny said, thinking that Frank, at least, would be happy with a decent cash settlement to cover his expenses.

“I offered to feed and walk Mr Bambury’s dog while he’s in hospital as well. Thought it might help to build a bridge or two. This feud we’ve been having has gone on way too long,” he added, “and if he’s waving the white flag at last, I’ll not shoot it down.”

All Red could think of as he spoke were the drooling fangs of Mr Bambury’s dog. He cowered inwardly at the thought of going anywhere near it ever again.

“Mr Bambury might look tough as nails, but he’s not a young bloke and he’s already got a heart condition, so they’re keeping him in for a bit longer for observation,” he went on. “Expect he’ll be out soon enough – I’m just hoping I’ll still have all ten fingers by the time he gets back home.” Mr Musgrave chuckled. He’s a braver man than me, thought Red, the drooling dog-fang scene spooling in his head.

“So it looks like Mr Fixit didn’t plant those earrings on you after all, Bonnie – it was old Bambury,” Scott said.

“Well, after I penknifed his tyres when I were a kid, I suppose he thought he owed me one,” she said.

“Oh, so you’re finally admitting you did it, eh?” Mr Musgrave said good-naturedly.

Bonnie returned his smile. “Well, let’s hope we can call it quits now. Sounds like you’ve had a minor miracle with Mr Bambury,” she replied. “Maybe Aunt Agatha knocked a bit of sense into him with that frying pan. It’s about time he came round, anyway… oh, pardon the pun! Anyway, if you’re talking about good things coming out of bad situations, not only have you found your dad, Penny, but I’ve found a cousin. Your mum might not be here, but at least you’ve got family around to support you while you’re up here.”

Penny felt a knot rising in her throat at Bonnie’s kind words. “Thanks, Bonnie. That means a lot,” she said, standing up to give her a hug. “You’ve been so understanding about everything,” she added, reflecting on how badly she’d treated her when she’d seen her wearing her mother’s earrings.

A piercing wolf-whistle broke the mood, and the young women unlocked embraces, turning in the direction of the sound. Coming towards the gathering across the grass was Brenda. “Come on, Bonnie, we’re all ready to leave!” she shouted.

Scott flinched inwardly at the sight of Brenda, hoping she wasn’t going to letch over him again. Jeez, he thought, she’s still wearing those awful black leggings. The girl must’ve slept in the things.

Scott was just wondering whether Brenda might have used a can of black spray-paint on her legs instead, when she wrenched at the waist-band to pull them back up. He dreaded to imagine what would happen if the elastic ever snapped.

“The girls can’t leave without saying goodbye to yer,” Brenda added when she reached them.

Brenda put a hand to her head and cringed. “Ooh, me head’s buzzin’! I don’t think I should be whistling and talking too loud today,” she groaned, “I’ve got a splitting headache. I got slaughtered last night. After you did a disappearing act from the toilet block, Bonnie, I went back to the girls, and we took a taxi into town. We were at that little night club till the early hours – and am I hung over, or what?”

“Yes, well, I was ever so slightly busy, Brenda,” she replied, seeing that her friend was oblivious to events.

“Yeah, well, you don’t seem to be much of a drinker, anyway, Bonnie. It’s just as well you didn’t come along – if you tried keeping up with us lot, you’d be even more hung over.”

She looked around at the gathering and spotted Scott. “Oh… err… I’m glad I’ve seen you,” she said, sounding contrite. “I’ve got some bad news, I’m afraid… I know you fancied me and all that, but I’m afraid I’ve met someone else.”

“Oh, yeah?” Scott said. This news was better than expected. He’d been relieved just to know she was leaving and wouldn’t be around to chase after him.

“Derek. Met him last night. He’s a lovely bloke. Into weight-lifting and all that, y’know,” she gushed despite her hangover. “Besides, I’m not sure you’re my type after all… Nice arse, but a bit too skinny for my likin’.”

“Well, I have to confess, that does come as sad news, Brenda. But I like to think I’m a man who can handle rejection,” Scott replied. “Glad you felt you could be so honest with me.”

“I like to be up front these days. And if it doesn’t work out with our Derek, I’ll give you a call, eh?” she winked. “I bumped into your boss yesterday and he gave me your mobile number.”

The smile that had been forming on Scott’s lips suddenly dropped. Penny looked down, stifling a snigger then looked back up to see that Red and Bonnie were doing the same.

“Well, tarah, cowboy,” she said, lunging forward, smearing a bright-pink lipstick kiss on Scott’s cheek. He recoiled, flushing as Brenda turned to leave. “Come on, you!” she said, yanking Bonnie off by the arm. Bonnie glanced back helplessly and waved a goodbye to Red, mouthing a “see you later”.

“Eh!” Brenda continued prattling as they walked off into the distance. “Do you know if your uncle has any headache tablets in that camp shop of his?”

“Well, I’d best be back off to reception, I suppose,” Mr Musgrave said. “I managed to get an old employee to fill in for a while at short notice – might even talk her into coming back here, who knows. I’m certainly glad Bonnie’s going to be working here for a while, anyway.” He made to leave then hesitated. “I have to say,” he said in a soft voice, looking at Penny, “I never thought I’d have a child of my own after Agatha’s miscarriage… And now here I am with a ready-made grown-up daughter – and a beautiful one at that. I know I haven’t been here for you all these years, love, but I’d like to try and make it up to you – if you’ll let me, that is.”

He smiled affectionately and she gave him a gentle hug. “I’d like that,” she said, holding back a tear. “And… I’d really like it if you’d accompany me to the funeral… If you don’t mind, that is.”

“I don’t mind at all, love,” he said appreciatively.

“Look,” she said, brushing at the corner of her eye, “if you and Bonnie are free this evening, why don’t you come round for a meal?”

Mr Musgrave gave a grateful nod and said his goodbyes.

“Hey, I could cook us something up on the barbie again if yer like,” Scott offered, looking at Penny.

“Here, mate,” Red said, pulling a tissue from his pocket as he shared a smile with Penny, “you might just wanna wipe that lippy off your face first.”

 

 

EPILOGUE

 

“Penny said I might find you here,” Dorian said as he rounded the front of Scott’s campervan to see him lying with his back against the trunk of a tree nearby, his bush hat over his face. Dorian raised an eyebrow at the laid-back posture. He certainly hoped young Mr Chevalier wasn’t going to make a habit of napping during the day while there was work to be done – not on his watch, at least.

Scott lifted the hat and gained his focus. “Oh,” he sighed, “wadda you want? Can’t you see I’m tryna catch forty winks?”

“I’ve just been speaking with Penny and Red and wanted to let you know that we’ve agreed to get back on schedule first thing tomorrow morning, bright and early,” Dorian announced, ignoring Scott’s obvious wish to be left alone. “I’ve been through Sally’s show notes and Red’s all sorted with a camera now, so we’re all set to shoot some more of your hunter-gatherer Tarzan moves on the beach,” he continued with a hint of disparagement.

Now that Sally was gone, Dorian would have to pick up the slack on set. Although her main brief was to direct, Frank had also tasked her with helping to research some of the British ‘bush tucker’ Scott could use on the show. So, given that fact, Dorian wasn’t too confident about the young man’s skills.

Dorian hadn’t been privy to Frank’s conversation when he sold the show to the British TV network – he’d dealt with everything while he was over in Australia – but it had all the hallmarks of another one of his boss’s money-making brainwaves. Frank had his pet projects, as well as his fingers in a handful of pies back in Australia which Dorian never got involved with. It was Sandra, Frank’s secretary, who had brought him up to speed on the basics. And from what Dorian could gather from her, Scott had been some kind of hot-shot surfing model Down Under. Apparently, he’d gotten into a spot of trouble – “quite a hullabaloo” she’d said – and his name was mud over there right now. So it was obvious to him that Scott had been brought in as some piece of eye-candy for the British audiences who didn’t know him – with Dorian ‘Muggins’ Martin having to do the research to fill in the gaps, he thought.

Still, although Dorian thought of Frank as a bit eccentric by his standards, the man was definitely a genius in the showbiz arena, and Dorian had every confidence in his horse-sense – well, normally. The company would’ve sunk into the murky depths of obscurity years ago had Frank not been shrewd enough to sniff out some promising talent and broker more than his fair share of lucrative deals. So there was some small chance that young Scott Chevalier might come good in the end.

“Oh, and by the way, what’s all this about you giving that Brenda girl my phone number?” Scott whined. “I’d only just got the thing and there she was flooding me with text messages.”

“Well, you weren’t around, and from what she told me, the two of you were… well, more than friends, shall we say…?” Dorian replied.

“And you believed her?” Scott said, incredulous. Great! he thought. He’s gonna be giving my number out left, right and centre. Just as well Brenda had found some other bloke to target with her affection since then.

Dorian gave a nonchalant shrug, a smile playing at the edge of his lips. He knew exactly what he was doing, all right, Scott thought. Just a shame he hadn’t shared the same words of warning with Brenda that he had with Penny.

“In any case, if you hadn’t worked out the hierarchy here, Scott, I’m your superior, not your personal messenger boy… Anyway,” Dorian went on, neatly side-stepping any further discussion on the matter by changing the subject, “I hear you’ve managed to do at least one thing right this week…” Scott creased his brow at the comment. “Penny told me how supportive you’ve been throughout this terrible affair she’s had to endure… Most admirable,” Dorian said.

Scott gave a humble nod, thinking he might as well lap up the compliment, even if it was a bit back-handed. He guessed praise came out of Dorian about as often as a big payout from a one-armed bandit in a casino.

Scott moved to put the hat back on his face. “Of course,” Dorian added, his eyebrows raised as he looked down. Scott paused. “It will all have to go in my report…”

“Report?” Scott frowned. “What report?”

“Oh… You know…” Dorian said as he started to walk away, “Frank’s babysitting report.” He looked back and flashed Scott a wry smile.

Cheeky mongrel! Scott thought. Babysitting report, my arse.

Scott replaced the hat over his face, laid back to resume his nap and smiled to himself as Dorian made his way back to his tent.

[Who’d have thought it, eh? _]Scott thought as he drifted off.[ Looks like the old fossil might just have a sense of humour._]

Hmm… Maybe, just maybe, life on set wasn’t going to be quite so bad after all.

 

  • * * *

Stay tuned for…

My Author’s Note, where I share some ‘behind the scenes’ insights,
My infamous ‘faux reviews’ by pseudo-celebrities,
A link to where you can download the series prequel for free, plus
Find out more about me and my other titles…

ENJOYED READING the adventures of Scott & the Campervan Bushman crew? Continue diving into the mystery with the next book in the series…

Preview Deathbed of Roses at the end of this book!

 

NOTE TO READER

 

[Dear Reader
__]
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about Scott’s adventures with the film crew. It takes a lot of work to write and publish a book, but it’s also rewarding because I get to have so much fun with the characters.

I’m sure after reading, you must have a few burgeoning [questions *]on your lips. Such as… Will the *attraction between Scott and Penny blossom into something deeper? What will happen when it’s time for Scott to go back home to Australia? And what on earth is it going to be like filming with ‘old fossil’ Dorian directing on set? Hopefully, as the series progresses, some of your questions will be answered!

In the meantime, I’ve included the first chapter of book 2, Deathbed of Roses, at the end of this book to whet your appetite. And if you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out on my new releases, why not join my Reader’s Group and pick up the series prequel at the same time (signup below)? As a member, you’ll get sneak peeks at upcoming books, early discounts on new releases, and you’ll hear about any other offers I’m running. What’s more, I never flood my readers with emails!

With each book in the series, you can look forward to being transported to a bunch of other settings as the Campervan Bushman crew moves on to film in [different locations *]around the British Isles. I’ve got plenty more story ideas to share with you, so just know that, at the very moment you’re reading this, I could very well be *clattering away at my keyboard (no doubt sitting in my pyjamas with a hot cup of tea!), putting together more adventures for you to read.

I love hearing from readers who have enjoyed my work, so if you’re one of them, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected] and let me know. Or why not stop by and leave a comment on my Facebook Author Page if you’re in the neighbourhood? I’m currently most active on there, although you can also find me on other social networking sites (links coming up).

One last thing… If you feel so inclined after reading this book, I’d really appreciate your leaving an honest review online. Not only are reviews useful for readers like yourself when selecting a book you might like, but they are super-important for authors, since they can help to make or break a book’s success. So if you have a moment, kindly click here to leave a review at your preferred store.

Once again, thank you for reading Killer Climate, and remember to pass on the good news if you’ve enjoyed it!

In gratitude

[Alannah Foley
aka The ‘Pyjama Writer’]

 

Get WIPEOUT, the series prequel, when you join the author’s Reader’s Group – click the image above or visit http://bit.ly/PJW-CBP-KCb

FAUX REVIEWS

Here are just a few of the author’s infamous ‘faux reviews’ by pseudo-celebrities for books in the Campervan Bushman series…

 

Having been stirred into buying an RV motorhome after reading Alannah’s Campervan Capers books, I decided to give this little fiction story a whirl. Well, hey, not only has she succeeded in inspiring me big time once again on the campervan front, but these mysteries are just bursting with the kinds of adventures we should – quite frankly – be featuring in my Mission Improbable movies!
[Tom Crews
Actor]

 

Scott might come across as a surf bum, but those of us who know him take our bush hats off to him. He can teach ya a thing or two about flavourin’ up a crocodile steak, I can tell ya… Although, of course, crocs are a protected species nowadays, so I don’t go hunting for them any more… Honest!
Crocodile Dundee (‘Mick’ to his mates)

 

I thought I’d learnt just about everything to do with bushcraft and survival skills until I met Scott. I mean, why bother making a temporary shelter by cutting down half the forest, when you can simply stick a surfboard and an old rain Mac over your head for shelter if you’re caught out in a rainstorm?
[May Rheas
Bushcraft Expert]

 

For me, the greatest mystery left unanswered in Killer Climate, the first book in the series, is: what type of seagull was featured? Apart from this one careless omission, I couldn’t help revelling in the natural vista painted by the author. The next mystery, of course, is whether we shall see any hump-backed whales in a future book in the series…?
[David Atinburrer
Broadcaster & Naturalist]

 

It’s about time we saw more fiction around with a bush theme. The good thing about books is, if you don’t like the stories, you can always use them as kindling for your fire. I’m a bit confused, though… There was talk on the bush grapevine that there’s some sort of new-fangled book around now – the Kindle Fire, is it? But from what I’ve heard, despite the name, it’d be next to useless as kindling for a fire. In any case, I whole-heartedly recommend the books in the Campervan Bushman series, so they won’t be going on my fire, mate.
[Lesley Higgins
Australian Bush Tucker Woman]

 

When I heard about Scott Chevalier and his to-die-for looks and rugged physique, I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful it might be to have such a virile young buck on my TV show. I might be a dyed-in-the-wool city girl, possum, but I can see from reading the Campervan Bushman books that Scott and I have got so much in common. Good looks, charm, wit, an easy-going personality… I’m sure we’d get on like a house on fire. I just hope the boy doesn’t literally set the studio alight, what with all those bush skills of his!
Dame Edna Beverage

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE

The seeds of Scott Chevalier’s character were sown last year (2014), back when I was writing Tales from Corny Cove, a book featuring a series of stories set in a fictitious location on the coast of picturesque Cornwall – the county where I currently live.

One of my original ideas for a story was to have a VW campervan owner visiting the Corny Cove campsite. He was to be a TV celebrity along the lines of Martin Dorey’s One Man & His Campervan (a programme which aired on British TV back in 2011), with his film crew in tow, shooting scenes for an episode of the show.

Initially, my campervan-driving celeb was going to be an Australian who was brought in purely to sex up the show – he knew nothing about foraging but could fake it all with the help of an expert working behind the scenes. In the end, this character didn’t feature in that book and, although I really enjoyed all the ideas I’d written down about him, he was temporarily shelved.

Fast forward a year or so, and I’m toying with the idea of writing mysteries. By now, it’s summer, and my partner (Steve) and I are off travelling in our camper…

Strangely, no sooner had I put the idea into my head about mystery writing, than the ideas started to flow… Staying on a campsite in the Lake District, I spotted a poster on the toilet block wall warning about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Hmm… Wouldn’t that be a nifty way to do someone in? I thought. Just sneak a gas stove into their tent at night, put it on a low setting and Bob’s your uncle! Who would’ve thought little old me could have such dastardly notions?

Obviously, I don’t condone following through with such actions, as Mrs Musgrave chose to do. Not only is it all highly illegal, but (just as Red imagines in the book) the only ‘friends’ you’re likely to have left are those you’re sharing an open-plan toilet with.

So for now, I hope you don’t mind if I keep any more ideas like this to myself – you know, just in case I end up getting letters from the police warning me that I might be inciting crime or something.

In any case, it wasn’t long before my campervan-driving Aussie character was rescued from the dark depths of my filing cabinet and transformed into a character with a bit more knowledge and clout than originally envisaged, and finally given star billing in a whole new mystery series of his own.

 

So what other influences lie behind Scott Chevalier’s character?

 

Well, these are manifold. For a start off, being an Anglo-Australian hybrid, I’ve had quite a diverse range of influences in my life. Born in Sydney, I was raised in the UK and went back to live in Australia for five years back in my twenties. And there are definite echoes in the book of that era of my life, in that it gave me an insight into other lifestyles – such as living out in the sticks in ‘alternative’ accommodation, making a fire and cooking outdoors, and so on.

On top of all this, I’m inspired by the likes of the renowned British survivalist and bushcraft expert, Ray Mears, as well as Les Hiddins, the infamous Australian ‘Bush Tucker Man’. Scott’s grandfather, who taught him about bush foods and survival skills, is very much based on the life and work of the latter.

If you put these two bushmen together in a blender with Martin Dorey’s One Man & His Campervan programme, you’d have something like a Campervan Bushman TV Show smoothie.

Hmm… Now, I had hoped to avoid murder as the main crime in future books in the series. But, taking a second glance at that last paragraph, I can’t help thinking… I do seem to have a penchant for convoluted, gruesome ways of killing people, don’t I? (Just as well for the guys that I don’t have a human-sized blender, eh?)

 

A Quick Note on Lingo

 

During the writing & editing process, I had to think somewhat about my use of language – in particular Scott’s colloquial speech. Trying to pitch a book ‘just right’, knowing that readers are dotted all over the globe and are used to different dialects, can be a challenge. So the approach I took throughout was to give an Aussie flavour to the relevant lingo without ‘over-egging the pudding’ with too much slang or word-shortenings which might stymie the reading flow and be harder for a non-Aussie audience to understand. I hope I may be forgiven for any verbal faux pas in this regard.

 

Well, with all that said, I hope you’re now looking forward to meeting up with the Campervan Bushman crew in the next books in the series to see what adventures & mysteries unfold.

 

See you there!

 

Alannah

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

In writing this book, I’ve needed help on a number of fronts, and so would really like to thank a few people in particular for their support and advice along the way.

Firstly, I have two of my sisters to thank for helping me with this book…

My Canada-based sister was really pleased when I said I was going to write a mystery, because she loves them so much. As well as sharing her enthusiasm along the way, she’s also acted as a beta-reader who I’ve been able to count upon to always speak her mind when giving feedback!

My Aussie sister, who makes documentaries and such, was most helpful regarding the technical aspects of film-making; some of this will, no doubt, carry on to be useful in future books, too. Her advice went hand in hand with the information I received from Martin Dorey (of One Man & His Campervan fame) with regard to filming such a travel production.

As a diver, my old friend Alistair was most informative, helping me to get clearer on such things as spear-fishing, sea conditions and the need for some kind of reef or shipwreck if Scott were to actually have any chance of finding a fish to catch with his harpoon gun!

Talking of ocean exploits, I’d like to thank photographer Stuart Gibson for his fantastic duck-diving image of surfer Ryan Hargrave (as featured in Outdoor Fitness magazine, November 2013). For a non-surfer like myself, this has served as a touchstone of inspiration for Scott’s character – despite the fact that the poor fella hasn’t actually managed to surf any decent waves so far!

As mentioned in the Author’s Note, I’ve also drawn upon the inspiration and skills of others along the way, such as the Aussie Bush Tucker Man, Les Hiddins, British survivalist & bushcraft expert, Ray Mears, and Martin Dorey. Along my writing journey, I’ve also picked up lots of other information via the internet and various books, for which I’m grateful, although these would be too numerous to mention here.

I hope I’ve done justice to all the advice given along the way. Obviously, a certain amount of leeway and artistic licence comes in where fiction is concerned, but I always endeavour to check facts wherever I can. It is possible to fall short sometimes, though, so if I’ve interpreted information incorrectly or have made errors, I give my humble apologies and will try to do better next time. Any inaccuracies rest squarely on my own shoulders.

Of course, last but never least, I’d like to thank my partner, Steve, for his support, feedback and patience throughout the writing and editing process. I am certainly very fortunate to have someone so good-natured and easy-going in my life!

 

ABOUT the Author

Alannah Foley… aka ‘The Pyjama Writer’

 

Born in Australia, raised in the UK, Alannah is a writer of both fiction & nonfiction, spanning topics as diverse as capers in a campervan, the vagaries of living with an obsessive cyclist and adventures Down Under. She also writes cosy mysteries and short stories, which invariably have a few twists, turns and tickles along the way.

Alannah lived in her Aussie birthplace for five years in her twenties, where mozzies regularly used her for target practice. She managed to return to Old Blighty devoid of shark or snake bite, however, and currently lives in Cornwall – with (of course) her cycling-obsessed partner.

Find out more about the author and where she got her Pyjama Writer nickname on her website at www.thePyjamaWriter.com/about.html.

 

CONNECT with the Author

The Pyjama Writer Website[
**]www.thePyjamaWriter.com
Alannah’s main webspace

The Pyjama Writer Blog[
**]http://thePyjamaWriter.wordpress.com
Quick tour of Alannah’s work, latest news & offers

Facebook Author Page[
**]www.facebook.com/PyjamaWriter

Twitter Page[
**]www.twitter.com/alannah_foley

Other Contact[
**]www.thePyjamaWriter.com/contact.html
For all other social networking,
email & webspace links

OTHER TITLES by Alannah Foley

Alannah Foley is the author of both fiction and nonfiction works, including such titles as Campervan Capers, Cycling Widows, the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series and Tales from Corny Cove.

To see what’s new on her shelf and to find out more, visit the Books page on the author’s website at

www.thePyjamaWriter.com/books.html

If you don’t want to miss a new release, feel free to join the author’s mailing list. Click on the newsletter link on the above website to get started.

 

PREVIEWBOOK 2 in the Series

DEATHBED of ROSES
Book 2 in the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series

 

Arriving at the Barrington-Bowles manor estate in the picturesque Lake District in the north of England, Scott Chevalier and the crew are all set to film the next episode of the Campervan Bushman TV show.

Everything seems to be off to a flying start, with Scott set to get in some windsurfing on the lake. But all that gets put on hold when they discover the body of another guest at the manor – that of celebrity gardener, Simon Sinclair – a man bristling with charm, ambition and good looks.

At first, it looks like Scott might be under the spotlight as a suspect, but was Sinclair killed by the infamous Lakes Killer, or is his murderer a lot closer to home?

Dive into the mystery at the manor with Scott and the crew in Deathbed of Roses…

CHAPTER 1

“Did you know,” Dorian said with an air of authority as he looked over his clipboard, “that the meat from the Herdwick sheep here in the Lake District was served up to Queen Elizabeth the Second at her Coronation banquet back in 1953?”

Oh, God, no! Red sighed as he stood his video camera on its tripod outside Scott’s campervan. Not another oh-so-interesting fact marathon from our beloved director!

“Fair dinkum!” Scott said as he stepped out of the side door of his campervan and onto the grass, ready for a morning of being filmed windsurfing down on the stunning blue lake nearby. The top half of his wetsuit was off and hung over the top of his legs, leaving his toned and tanned bare chest on show, adorned with a simple shark’s-tooth necklace given to him by his father when he was young. “And did she like it?”

Dorian tucked the clipboard under an arm and frowned. “I’m sorry?”

“You know, the mutton – did the Queen enjoy eating it at this coronation of hers?… I mean, just because they served it up to her didn’t mean she liked it, eh?”

“Hey, Scott’s got a point there,” Red chimed in. “I mean, just what does the Queen do if she doesn’t like the food her servants dish up to her? Spit it into a tissue and stuff it in her pocket so she can chuck it away later?”

“…Or maybe she slips it to those corgis of hers under the table – y’know, kind of on the sly, like,” Scott added with a smile.

Dorian let out a huff, adjusting his burgundy cravat. “Well, as her ancestor, Queen Victoria, would say, We are not amused!” He looked down at his watch, trying to forget that, not for the first time in his long career in the film-making industry, was he being forced to tolerate uncouth coworkers. Some people just have no sense of decorum.

Scott and Red exchanged glances and rolled their eyes.

“Hmm… I wonder where Penny’s got to…,” Dorian said, thinking he’d feel better once he had someone around who had a little more sense. Penny might be in her early twenties, about the same age as Scott and Red, but she was a darned sight more mature, that was certain, he thought. Trying to keep the two lads in check seemed nigh on impossible.

Oh, well, Dorian thought, I’m only here temporarily. After Penny’s mother had been killed barely two weeks ago, Frank, the owner of their little production company, had asked him to step in at short notice to fill her boots as director and team coordinator of the Campervan Bushman TV show. They only had another five episodes of the show to film, thought Dorian, but getting someone in to take his place couldn’t come fast enough. What heaven it would be to get back to London, working as Frank’s assistant again – and away from youngsters who he felt he had to babysit.

“It’s not like Penny to be late normally,” Red said. “Maybe she overslept.”

“Yes, well, that oaf of a celebrity gardener, Simon Sinclair, did seem to monopolise her time after dinner last night,” Dorian said dismissively. “If he kept her up all evening talking about himself, she may well have slipped into a coma by now. The man’s full of his own self-importance. I really don’t see what women see in the fellow.”

“Well, she’s also been through a lot lately, what with her mum dying and all,” Red said, ignoring Dorian’s rant.

“Yeah, I’m just glad Frank saw sense and made her take that extra week off when he saw what she was like at the funeral,” Scott said. “I know it’s mucked up the filming schedule a bit, but she wouldna taken a break unless he made her.”

Although Penny came across as the strong and determined type, it was obvious to all that she needed someone to rein her in sometimes. Soldiering on after such a traumatic event wasn’t always the best policy. In fact, it wasn’t until the funeral service, with friends and family giving her reassuring hugs, that the feelings she’d kept bottled up inside since her mother had died were able to come out. And, once the wake was over, the tears finally tumbled in buckets – many of them onto Scott’s shoulder.

“Hmm…,” Dorian frowned. He realised with some concern that they were right – and was somewhat taken aback at their hidden capacity for depth. Perhaps they weren’t quite as immature as he’d pegged them to be.

“Ah, here she comes,” Dorian smiled, seeing Penny in the distance carrying a boom microphone as she trudged down from the manor house across the grass wearing sturdy walking boots. Despite the good weather upon their arrival at the Barrington-Bowles estate the day before, it had rained during the early hours of the night, leaving the ground a little soggy.

“For goodness’ sake, cover yourself up, man!” Dorian said as he glanced back at Scott, who still had his wetsuit folded down.

Scott raised an eyebrow. “I thought the viewers liked a bit o’ bare flesh – according to our glorious leader, Frank, anyway,” he countered.

“That may be so, but save it for the camera. I doubt Penny wants to be accosted by your naked form this early in the morning.”

“Oh, I dunno,” he teased, Dorian trying to keep his annoyance in check. Scott acquiesced and pulled on the top half of his wetsuit, thinking that the nickname of ‘old fossil’ he’d given to Dorian fit just right! Talk about being old-fashioned. Scott might be an ex-model, but he was pretty sure the sight of his torso wasn’t going to turn Penny into some kind of babbling idiot while they were filming. In fact, if anything, the opposite seemed more true, Scott thought. Unlike some of the women he’d known back in his Australian homeland, Penny seemed to be the sort who had her own mind and didn’t want to know him just for his good looks.

From the moment he met Penny, he’d felt a spark, but she was set on playing the “I don’t date people I work with – let’s just be friends” card. Still, Scott was an optimist by nature – all surfers were, he reckoned – so he hadn’t totally given up hope. Besides, with her mother’s death so fresh, he realised, she had more important things on her mind right now.

If nothing else, Scott had been able to deliver on the “let’s be friends” part of the deal by being there for Penny after the funeral. And maybe one day not too far off she’d come round, he thought. After all, she had taken up his invitation to come down to his campervan the night before for a nightcap, so maybe his charm was working more than he realised. Probably best not to mention it to Dorian, though, he thought. The guy’d probably have a fit.

Scott zipped up his wetsuit, wandered round to the side of the campervan and breathed in the fresh morning air, laced with the scent of pine trees to the rear. His eye followed the line of trees which briefly followed a path along the side of Lake Conimere before entering into the woods. It formed a great visual backdrop to the campervan when filming for the TV show – even if it was Dorian’s idea to park it there. He couldn’t have picked a better spot himself, he admitted.

Just then, Scott thought he saw movement and narrowed his eyes, scanning the edge of the woods. Then he spotted something and his eyes flew open with excitement. A young deer, foraging.

He stepped back to Red and gave him a prompt tap on the shoulder. He spun round to see Scott silently pointing and beckoning. Quick! Bring your camera! he seemed to be saying. Red creased his brow as Scott whipped back round the side of the camper. What on earth’s he up to?

Red glanced back at Dorian to see him throwing a smile in Penny’s direction. What the heck! Dorian won’t miss me for a minute, he thought, following on behind Scott who was now moving like some ninja on a stealth mission towards the trees.

“What…?” Red started to say as he caught up with Scott. Scott swiftly raised a finger to his lips to hush him then pointed towards the woods. Red squinted. He thought he spotted something – a dash of white? – but then it was gone.

“Quick! It’s gettin’ away!” Scott tried to whisper, tugging at the sleeve of Red’s black and red polo shirt, urging him on. Scott moved swiftly in a semi-crouch along the path, then suddenly jabbed a finger. Red turned his head in the direction to see the white tail of a small deer as it sprang away into the depths of the darkening woods.

They sped along the path in hot pursuit, but as they entered the forest, it was clear they weren’t going to catch up with it. There was too much dark undergrowth up ahead and the deer was just too quick and agile.

Scott came to a stop where a tree had fallen down and was blocking the path. Red soon caught up with him, glad that Scott had finally stopped running. I’m seriously out of shape, he thought, trying to catch his breath.

“Looks like we lost the deer,” Scott said.

“Well, I’m not sure how good the footage would’ve been with it being so dark in here, anyway,” he shrugged, looking around and seeing that the only source of light came through the trees on the lake side to the right.

“Hey, what’s that?” Red said, noticing something bright red down on the rocks, just past the fallen tree.

Scott creased his brow as he looked in the direction, stepping over the tree trunk to investigate. Red followed, hefting his camera tripod up as he went.

Suddenly realising what he was seeing as he approached the patch of red, Scott sped up. Jeez! It was a body lying face down on the rocks at the side of the lake. His heart quickened as he leapt down over the rocks, stooping to check for a pulse. He might still be alive.

Red drew nearer, his eyes bulging in horror as Scott took the man’s wrist.

“Christ, mate!” Scott said, looking back up at Red. “He’s dead!”

“Oh, God! Dorian’s going to…,” Red gulped.

“Dorian’s going to what?”

Red’s head spun round to see Dorian standing above them, somewhat out of breath, with Penny following on a short way behind him.

Dorian’s eyes moved from Red to Scott, and then down to the body at his side. His breath stopped for a moment as he took in the enormity of the situation.

A moment later, Penny stepped out from behind him. “What’s going o…?” she began, but as she looked down, her throat caught. She’d seen that red shirt before. It belonged to Simon Sinclair, the celebrity gardener who was a guest at the estate. And the shirt was the one he’d worn at dinner the night before. She might not be able to see his face beneath his wet mop of dark hair, but there was no mistaking it was him.

Penny’s face contorted and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, my God!” she said in a half-whisper. Yesterday, Simon Sinclair had seemed so full of life. In fact, she was pretty sure he’d been flirting with her all evening, despite the fact he was married. But now he was, quite literally, all washed up.

“I don’t know what the hell’s happened here, but he’s gone,” Scott said solemnly. “I reckon we’d better call the cops.”

 

DEATHBED of ROSES
Book 2 in the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series

Click here to order
Deathbed of Roses
NOW

Copyright Information

Copyright 2015 Alannah Foley

License Notes

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please go to the author’s website for the links to purchase your own copy at:

www.thePyjamaWriter.com/campervan-bushman.html

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Killer Climate

A light cosy-style mystery with an edge of humour, a sense of adventure, and a hint of romance... KILLER CLIMATE Book 1 in the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series Give a young Crocodile Dundee a campervan and a surfboard, and you've got something like Scott Chevalier, star of the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series. Ex-surf champ and model, Scott Chevalier, isn't just a pretty face! With an enviable campervan-surfie lifestyle, and a handful of impressive bush skills learnt from his grandfather, producer Frank Buckler sees great potential in the young Aussie and hires him to host a British TV show called The Campervan Bushman. Unfortunately, things don't start out too well when Scott arrives on location in England. One minute, he has to contend with the freezing North Sea, and the next, he's in danger of being reported for popping off the local wildlife. When things hit rock bottom and the director dies, no one suspects it could be anything but an accident – at least not to start with. But as the evidence begins to mount, Scott realises that the cold English climate isn't the only killer around. BONUS DOWNLOAD Get the series prequel, WIPEOUT, for FREE when you join the author's New Releases mailing list (link inside the book). Get KILLER CLIMATE and join Scott Chevalier as he dives into his first mystery!

  • ISBN: 9781311141354
  • Author: Alannah Foley
  • Published: 2016-06-04 08:50:17
  • Words: 48555
Killer Climate Killer Climate