Today, I have a post on Austen Authors to celebrate the release of my first mystery, Three's a Crowd in which I am interviewed by none other than the great one herself, Jane Austen. I hope you will stop by for a visit.
From the back jacket: In Three’s A Crowd, we are introduced to Detective Sergeant Patrick Shea, a rising young star at the Hampden Station Criminal Investigation Department, and someone whose career is being fast tracked by the Metropolitan Police in London. With his eye on an appointment to a Murder Investigation Team with New Scotland Yard, Shea is doing everything by the book. Unfortunately, Patrick’s love life is a bit of a mess and gets messier when he learns that his former lover, Annie Jameson, has been assaulted on someone else’s patch. Will his involvement in the under-the-radar investigation of the attack on his ex-girlfriend put his career in jeopardy and possibly her life as well?
Below is an excerpt from Three’s A Crowd. If you leave a comment, you will be entered in a giveaway for a Kindle e-book of my mystery. BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS. No e-mail address - no can win. The winner will be announced on June 25.
As soon as his shift was over, Patrick drove to see Annie at Queen Mary’s Hospital, an ugly box of a building set down in the middle of Putney near
. Before going up to her room,
he bought a bouquet of flowers from the hospital gift shop, little changed from
the last time he had visited it when he was stationed at Renwick. As a
detective constable, he had spent untold hours in the accident and emergency
room interviewing victims of car accidents, assault, and domestic violence or
taking statements from young people who had gone out on a lash, drinking nearly
toxic levels of alcohol. While he waited for the medical staff to finish
treating the victim and/or suspect, Patrick passed the time by flirting with
the nurses, counting on his reddish-blond hair and blue eyes to draw their
attention. The endless hours coppers spent sitting in an A and E waiting room
were the reasons why so many of them married nurses. Roehampton University
When he entered the room, Annie was asleep, propped up on pillows, her head swathed in bandages. The right side of her face had taken the brunt of the assault and was bruised and swollen, and she sported a black eye usually reserved for boxers. He knew from the incident report that her assailant had landed a blow to the right side of her head causing nausea and disorientation. When her attacker had released her, she had pitched forward, banging her head, first into wrought-iron fencing, before catching the edge of a low brick wall supporting the railings. The impact had resulted in a mild concussion. In addition to the swelling, the skin on her right cheek had been scraped away, but the abrasions weren’t so deep that she would scar, and Patrick let out a sigh of relief. Nothing should mar Annie’s flawless complexion, and he remembered the coolness of her cheek resting against his own.
Fortunately, the sound of Patrick moving one of the chairs was enough to awaken the patient and spare him any additional memories. When she saw him, she smiled, causing her to wince from the skin stretching over the cuts on her face that had already begun to heal.
“Patrick, thank you for coming,” she said, edging herself up into a sitting position. Her voice was hoarse, but that was to be expected from someone who had had a forearm jammed up against her larynx. “John Stanley rang earlier and told me you might be coming by.”
“My pleasure. Well, not actually a pleasure,” he said, stumbling, and then handed Annie the flowers to cover up his gaffe. “Sorry about all this.”
“Yeah. Wrong place, wrong time,” she said, accepting the flowers.
“So you’ve had a few visitors,” Patrick said, acknowledging the flora and fauna.
“Tons. You just missed the Sisterhood,” a core group of six girlfriends, all of whom had grown up with Annie in
and had stayed in
contact despite the tugs and pulls of family and work. “We were laughing so
hard, Sister chucked them out as soon as visiting hours ended. So how did you get in, Patrick? Your smile or your
warrant card? Never mind. I’m pretty sure you didn’t need to show your warrant
Annie knew Patrick to be an unrepentant flirt, but she also knew that if he was in a relationship, it was all smiles and talk for the ladies, but no action. For Patrick, fidelity was a core principle, and on that matter, he walked the straight and narrow and expected his girlfriend to do the same. No deviation, no excuses, the penalties harsh.
“What were you doing on
Old School Road?”
Patrick asked, diving right in.
“I’m taking night courses at Roehampton, and I have a flat near the university. I was walking home.”
“When did that happen? The flat, I mean.”
“About six months ago. I’m a graduate student in hospital administration, so it made sense to make the move.”
“You quit the surgery?”
“Yeah, I got tired of the whole
plastic surgery scene.” Since graduating from university, Annie had worked as a
medical assistant at a posh clinic where the rich went to have their noses
shaved, faces lifted, tummies tucked, and fat sucked out of their butts... “Now, I work at a surgery in
Hampden from until . Those hours allow me time to do
my coursework and get over to the university.”
“Where’s your flat?” After giving him the location, Patrick made a face. While a copper at the Renwick nick, there had been an uptick in 999 calls coming into the station from
Pullman Crescent, a neighborhood that had
been cut in half when the motorway had been constructed, basically destroying
the cohesiveness of a once prospering middle-class commuter suburb of . He was less than
thrilled with the idea of Annie living there. “You didn’t change the address on
your driver’s license.” London
“No, officer, I did not. Are you going to arrest me? Did you bring the cuffs?” she said, holding out her hands.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Patrick quickly added. “
sent me a copy of the incident report, and it shows your Hammersmith address.” Stanley
“Like I said, I moved.”
Patrick waited for more, and he was good at waiting. When a person came from a large family, you got used to waiting your turn. As a detective, it worked to his advantage. People hated prolonged silences, and the longer it went on, the more likely the person would start talking. Often it was like opening a tap, and the suspect wouldn’t shut up.
“It’s convenient to my work and flat.” Patrick stuck with the silent treatment. “All right, I didn’t move to be nearer to uni. Last April, Daphne skipped out and stuck me with the rent. There was no way I could afford the flat on my own.”
“Why didn’t you get another flat mate?”
Annie rolled her eyes. There were two Patrick Sheas: the handsome man who had swept her off her feet with a smile and a few sentences and the copper—the man who was now asking all these questions.
“Because I didn’t want it to happen to me again. So I decided to hell with it. I’d find some place I could afford on my own.”
“Sorry. Didn’t know about any of that.”
“How could you?” Annie said with a shrug of her shoulders. “But what I want to know is: Are you here as a friend or as a copper? Because if you are here in an official capacity, you can get all the details of the attack from DC Shakur, who was the one who interviewed me.”
“Except that Detective Constable Shakur had you down as being mugged by a bag snatcher. There’s no way this was a mugging. You were assaulted.”
Although he knew it would unsettle her, Annie had to know that bag snatchers didn’t forget to take the handbag or the mobile, and their crimes weren’t personal. Whoever had punched Annie in the head had whispered something in her ear. Muggers didn’t deliver messages. They grabbed the goods and hauled arse.
“Do you remember what was said to you?”
“No,” Annie answered, shaking her head. “He punched me so hard my ears were ringing. I only knew he was talking to me because I could feel his breath on my skin.”
“Who would want to do this to you?”
“No one.” Patrick stared at her, his eyes boring into her like blue lasers. “Stop looking at me like that.” But there was to be no reprieve. “I honestly don’t know anyone who would want to do this to me. I do not have enemies. Isn’t that the next question? Do you have any enemies? I have to assume it was random or my assailant mistook me for someone else.”
“Boyfriend?” Patrick asked, ignoring her comments.
“Breakup within the past year?”
“No, Detective Sergeant Shea,” an exasperated Annie answered.
“Listen, Annie, I’m sorry I have to ask you all these questions, but someone pulled you by the hair, punched you in the head, and pushed you into a brick wall. I’m not the guy you should be pissed off at.”
Annie stated once again that she had already answered the same questions with DC Shakur with a follow-up telephone call from Sergeant Stanley of the Renwick nick. “And allow me to reiterate: I don’t currently have a boyfriend. In fact, I haven’t had a serious relationship since…”
“…since you and I broke up,” she said, shifting uncomfortably in her stiff hospital gown. “Other than a couple of dates with one guy months ago, there has been no one.”
Patrick found it hard to believe that no man had stepped in to fill the vacancy created by their break-up. Even with her injuries, Annie was beautiful, her Scots ancestors having provided her with a fair complexion that served to enhance her thick black hair and dark eyes.
“What about the bloke you threw me over for?”
“As I mentioned at the time of our break-up, it was a fling, and it lasted only the one night. I have never seen him again,” Annie answered while staring at her hands. “Listen, Patrick, I know you are trying to be helpful. But it is the honest-to-God’s truth that I haven’t been with anyone since we broke up.” But then she went quiet for several minutes. “After I decided to leave the clinic, I enrolled at Roehampton to work on a master’s degree in hospital administration... Once that’s behind me, I’ll be back in the game. And it’s not as if I don’t go out. I do have girlfriends. I do go to clubs and put in my time at the neighborhood pubs, but I do not have a love interest.”
. . .
“If you don’t mind me butting into your business,” Patrick said, not waiting for a response, “I would rather you not go home until after I have checked out your flat. I want to have a look at the locks, outdoor lighting, places where a villain can hide, etc. Make sure no one can break in.”
“Do you think someone would do that?” Annie asked, fear inching into her voice.
“Because there is no way to know why this bloke assaulted you, we really can’t say what your assailant is capable of. Better safe than sorry.”
“I have mates who can help me out.”
“Yeah, but I’d feel better if I did it.”
Annie reluctantly accepted his offer, but then she never wanted to experience anything like this ever again.
“Now that the interview has concluded, why don’t you take off your policeman’s hat and just be a friend. I’d love to hear what Josh is doing. I miss him," she said of Patrick's eight-year-old son...
“We talked about you the last time I had him for a weekend. Josh wanted to know if you were still at the surgery puffing up women’s lips and shaving off bits of bone from their noses. He keeps telling me it’s gross, but I think that’s the attraction and the reason for all the questions.”
Annie laughed. “If he thinks that’s gross, he should watch a surgeon perform liposuction.”
“Don’t ever say that to him or he’ll call your bluff. You’ll be ringing Dr. Tranh so Josh can watch one of his surgeries.”
“Yeah, I can easily believe that. He’s curious about everything. Just like his dad which is why you’re such a good copper.”
And why I’m a lousy boyfriend, Patrick thought. But he kept it to himself.
Available from Amazon on Kindle for .99.