To celebrate the launch of Echo Murder, the thrilling continuation of Fallible Justice, today, I have shared below the first chapter of the book.
Yannia Wilde returns to the Wild Folk conclave where she grew up, and to the deathbed of her father, the conclave’s Elderman. She is soon drawn back into the Wild Folk way of life and into a turbulent relationship with Dearon, to whom she is betrothed.
Back in London, unassuming office worker Tim Wedgebury is surprised when police appear on his doorstep with a story about how he was stabbed in the West End. His body disappeared before the paramedics’ eyes. Given that Tim is alive and well, the police chalk the first death up to a Mage prank. But when Tim “dies” a second time, Detective Inspector Jamie Manning calls Yannia and, torn between returning to the life she has built in Old London and remaining loyal to the conclave and to Dearon, she strikes a compromise with the Elderman that allows her to return temporarily to the city.
There she sets about solving the mystery of Tim’s many deaths with the help of her apprentice, Karrion. They come to realise that with every death, more of the echo becomes reality, and Yannia and Karrion find themselves in increasing danger as they try to save Tim. Who is the echo murderer? What sinister game are they playing? And what do they truly want?
‘So, how was it?’ Lizzie asked.
Tim rested his hand on the small of Lizzie’s back and steered her across the road among a crowd of people. A taxi honked, but the flow of people remained unaffected. All around them, their fellow theatre-goers were talking and laughing: the sound a murmur of joy and excitement.
‘You won. I had a good time.’
Lizzie twisted to look at him, a smile lighting her face as they headed up the hill. She seemed oblivious to the people jostling them.
‘I knew you were going to like it,’ she said.
‘The puppets were gorgeous.’ Tim wrapped an arm around Lizzie’s shoulder. ‘I’m really glad you dropped enough hints for me to get the message.’
‘By hints you mean anvils, don’t you?’
‘No wonder they worked,’ Tim said with a chuckle. ‘I’m not into musicals, but The Lion King might have changed my mind.’
‘Mission accomplished, then.’
They left the worst of the theatre crowds behind as they weaved through the narrow streets towards the bright lights of Covent Garden. The night air was cool and carried dampness that spoke of rain to come. Lizzie zipped up her coat and inched closer to Tim’s warmth.
‘Are you tired?’ he asked.
‘Not really. Do you have something in mind?’
‘There’s a nice pub near Tottenham Court Road. I thought we could stop there for a drink?’
‘Do you mind if we walk? After sitting down for so long, I’d like to stretch my legs.’
A car blaring rap music approached them, and Tim switched to Lizzie’s other side to put himself between her and the car. She turned her head briefly to nuzzle his shoulder.
They walked through the covered section of Covent Garden and towards the tube station. The area was thick with tourists gawking at the street performers, and a steady stream of people passing in and out of the many pubs and restaurants. Through a restaurant window, they saw a huge birthday cake being set before an old woman while the staff formed a semi-circle around the table. A door opening to a pub allowed a wave of raucous laughter to roll out. Wherever they looked, the streets were filled with people who were happy and laughing and in love. Surrounded by so much joy, Lizzie reached up to press a kiss on Tim’s cheek.
A cluster of homeless people was stationed by the tube entrance, begging for change. Lizzie dropped some coins into their cups, while Tim watched her with a smile.
The streets beyond Covent Garden were quieter, the shops having closed hours ago. Street lights struggled against the darkness of the cloudy evening, and in places, puddles reflected a pale imitation of the real view.
‘I should warn you, I’m going to get lost,’ Tim said as he steered Lizzie across the road and turned left.
‘Because I always get lost when I try to walk from Covent Garden to Charing Cross Road.’
‘Do you want me to get directions on my phone?’ Lizzie asked.
‘No, I just thought I ought to let you know.’
‘Thanks.’ Lizzie’s fingers found the hand resting on her shoulder. ‘Though getting lost with you doesn’t sound like a terrible thing.’
Tim watched her while they walked and he shook his head.
‘What is it?’ Lizzie asked.
‘You are something else, you know that, don’t you?’
At the sight of Lizzie’s cheeks heating, Tim stopped and kissed her. A whistle from a drunk man staggering in the opposite direction drew them apart, and they continued their walk, both smiling.
A few minutes later, Tim rounded the corner and paused.
‘Yep, this is definitely not Tottenham Court Road.’
‘Maybe we haven’t walked far enough yet,’ Lizzie said.
‘No, I got lost, just like I said I would.’
‘Where are we?’
Tim pointed to a street sign above them. ‘Shaftesbury Avenue, near Leicester Square. Somewhere along the way, we should have turned right instead of left.’
‘Do you know the way from here?’
‘Actually, I do.’
‘So all is well. And it’s been a nice walk.’
They crossed the road outside the dark windows of a fancy dress shop and continued walking. Tall trees cast shadows on the pavement and dry leaves floated along in the breeze. Behind them, a man stepped out from an alley and crossed the road.
‘How come you know this area of London so well, barring the inevitable confusion over those side streets?’ Lizzie asked. ‘Did you used to live nearby?’
‘No. I enjoy exploring London. I quite often skip the rush hour train home in favour of finding a nice restaurant or pub to try. It’s more fun to walk to places because you never know what you’ll find along the way.’
Lizzie laughed. ‘Next you’re going to say that it’s the journey that matters and not the destination.’
‘As a matter of fact, it’s the journey–’ Tim got no further before a man stepped around them and stopped, pulling a knife from his pocket.
‘You two, get into the alley,’ he said, pointing to a gap between the buildings.
The man was barely out of his teens. He wore a black windbreaker a few sizes too large and he had patchy stubble growing on his chin. His large eyes were darting around, frightened, but determined.
‘Take it easy, mate.’ Tim put himself between the man and Lizzie. ‘We don’t want any trouble.’
‘Do as I say, and no one will get hurt. Now get in that alley.’ The man pointed again for added emphasis.
Still keeping himself between Lizzie and the mugger, Tim stepped into the shadows. The alley was narrow and lined on one side by red bins. The smell of urine mingled with the odours of rotting food and wet cardboard. An emergency exit sign cast a dim light, but Tim had to wait while his eyes adjusted.
‘You can take everything I have on me, but please don’t hurt her,’ he said. Next to him, Lizzie tried to choke back a sob.
‘I reckon you give me all your stuff and we’re cool.’
‘As I said, just take it easy.’ Tim removed his watch and handed it to the mugger with his wallet and his phone.
The mugger stuffed Tim’s belongings in his pocket. With the knife, he motioned towards Lizzie. ‘Now you.’
Lizzie passed him her handbag, but when it came to undoing the clasp of her watch, her fingers shook too much to get a purchase on the metal.
‘Hurry up.’ The mugger glanced towards the street, waving his knife for effect.
‘She’s doing her best,’ Tim said, trying to keep his voice steady.
‘Please,’ Lizzie turned to Tim, tears in her eyes. ‘I can’t do this.’
‘Can you leave her the watch? You got everything else.’
‘No, I want the watch and the bling. Hurry up.’
Lizzie began sobbing, her whole body quaking. Tim stepped towards her, hand stretched to clasp her elbow, but the mugger got between them.
‘I’m trying to help her.’
‘I said, stay back.’ The mugger advanced, raising the knife.
‘Can you see she’s scared? I just want to help her give you the watch and the jewellery.’
The knife lowered a fraction, but before Tim could skirt around the mugger to Lizzie, she let out a low wail. The mugger whirled around, pointing the knife at Lizzie’s face.
‘Shut up,’ he said, voice rising. ‘Give me the stuff and shut up.’
Lizzie shrank back against the bin while Tim stepped around the mugger to stand between her and the knife.
‘You’re making it worse,’ he said, concern for her overtaking his fear.
The mugger scowled, anger twisting his face. He moved to step forward, and his foot landed on a bottle. Off balance, he collided with Tim, knife first. Lizzie screamed. The mugger stepped back, staring at the bloodied knife, while Tim’s hand rose to feel wetness spreading across his jacket. He staggered back.
At the sight of the blood, Lizzie screamed again. The mugger dropped his knife and ran deeper into the alley. Tim slid down to sit on the litter-strewn ground, his back against the bin. The left side of his torso was stained red.
‘Get help,’ he said to Lizzie, trying to sound calm. ‘Call an ambulance and the police.’
Lizzie only stared at him until Tim forced a smile.
‘It’s okay. I’m going to be fine.’
After a lingering look, Lizzie turned towards Shaftesbury Avenue. Her first steps were hesitant, as if she was uncertain of her balance, but soon concern overrode the shock. She ran. The street was empty of people and cars. Lizzie chose the direction they had been walking in, the heels of her shoes clicking on the pavement.
She was almost at the far end of the street when movement across the road caught her eye. In a small alcove, beneath theatre posters, a homeless man was huddled in a sleeping bag. A skinny dog was lying next to him on a grimy blanket. Lizzie ran across the road and came to a halt next to the alcove, a hand resting on the cool bricks. The dog wagged its tail.
‘Please help. We were mugged. My boyfriend’s been stabbed. I need to find a phone.’
When the man pushed aside his sleeping bag, a sharp tang of an unwashed body assaulted Lizzie’s nose. The man’s face was gaunt, his features all but obscured by an unkempt beard, but the eyes that met Lizzie’s were sharp and kind.
‘Where’s your boyfriend?’ he asked.
Lizzie pointed along the road, towards the darkness of the alley.
‘You find a phone. I’ll help him.’
‘Thank you,’ Lizzie said, her breathing erratic. She allowed herself a moment to watch the homeless man before continuing her search.
The homeless man found Tim still leaning against the bin. Where he was applying pressure to the wound, his hands were slick with blood. At the sound of footsteps, Tim opened his eyes.
‘Your girlfriend’s getting help. My name’s Bob.’ He crouched next to Tim.
‘Nice to— meet you— Bob,’ Tim said. His breathing was shallow and irregular.
‘Can you take off your jacket?’ Bob asked.
‘I can try.’
Tim tried to shrug off his jacket, but Bob had to help him. Folding the fabric so a dry section was on the top, Bob pressed it against the wound on Tim’s side.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Tim.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Timothy Wedgbury.’
‘Tim, help is on its way.’ Blood seeped through the fabric onto Bob’s hands.
‘How’s— Lizzie? Is she okay?’
‘Lizzie, your girlfriend?’
Tim nodded and closed his eyes.
‘She’s pretty shook up, but there isn’t a scratch on her. As soon as you’re on the mend, she’ll be right as rain.’ Cocking his head, Bob thought he heard approaching sirens. ‘Can you tell me what happened?’
‘We were mugged… Just a kid… I tried to— help Lizzie… Kid stumbled— stabbed me… An accident…’
By now, Bob was certain he could hear sirens. He increased the pressure on the wound. Tim’s expression did not change.
‘Hang in there, Tim.’ When he got no response, he patted Tim’s cheek, leaving a smear of blood on it. ‘Open your eyes and look at me, Tim.’
The sirens grew loud enough to hurt Bob’s ears before they cut off. He heard running footsteps and called out, ‘Over here! Help!’
Paramedics rushed around the corner, carrying heavy bags. One of them took over the compression while Bob stepped back. A second paramedic felt Tim’s neck.
‘I can’t find a pulse.’
They manoeuvred Tim away from the bin so he was lying down. The first paramedic bent down to bring his cheek close to Tim’s mouth.
‘He’s not breathing.’
The second paramedic placed his hands on Tim’s sternum and then froze. ‘What the hell?’
Tim’s body was growing translucent, fading from view. Bob noticed that a bloodied knife on the ground was likewise turning insubstantial, and he stumbled back until he collided with the corner of the bin. He fell backwards. The paramedics leapt up and one reached for his radio, though he could form no words to describe the nature of the emergency. In front of the stunned witnesses, Tim, his bloodied jacket and the blood on the ground disappeared, as if they had never been.
Curious to know what happens to Tim? You can get signed copies of Echo Murder, with extra goodies, here, and it’s available on paperback and ebook here. If you want to check out some reviews first, head over to Goodreads.