Paperback: 262 pages
Publisher: Crime Scene Books (24 May 2018)
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour for Body Heat, the second book in the Jocasta Hughes series. For my turn I have an extract to share which looks decidedly gruesome – just my sort of read!!
| About the Book |
Dr Jocasta Hughes is faced with a gruesome series of murders which leave the remains of the victims twisted and charred. The hunt heats up for the arsonist, and so does Jo’s relationship with the exasperating DI Miller. A chilling mystery with lead characters you want to spend more time with, and a murderer you definitely want to avoid.
He was driving carefully, making sure he didn’t attract attention, although he hardly saw another car once he had left the town. He had driven this route several times in preparation, knew all the bends and dips, the houses and driveways, every potential threat. What he hadn’t accounted for was the excitement and tension of doing it for real and the effect of all that extra adrenalin. He thought he was driving exactly as he had in the practice runs, but in fact he was driving considerably faster, a little too fast for a corner that came up sooner than he had expected. He braked hard, and panicked as the rear wheels drifted and hit the grass verge. He overcorrected and the car lurched onto the wrong side of the road, throwing his passenger from side to side as he struggled to straighten up and regain control. He was lucky the road ahead was empty. He pulled over to the side of the road and rested his head against the steering wheel, waiting for his heart rate to come down to something near normal. He couldn’t afford to have an accident. Not now. He took a deep breath to calm himself and then turned to check that she was all right. He had taken care to strap her in with the seat belt when he put her in the car, even though she wouldn’t sit up straight to help him. Couldn’t. She looked fine, slumped in her seat, her head lolling to one side, seemingly asleep. She mumbled something incoherent, but he felt her tone was critical. Bitch.
‘Sorry,’ he said as he looked at her with disgust. She gave a little smile that could have been a grimace, or wind, and mumbled again. He thought it might have been:
That was better, he thought, more respectful. She looked as if she might be sick. He hoped not. He hated the smell of vomit, and he didn’t want her to spoil the moment. If she only knew what he had planned for her. He smiled to himself, feeling instantly better as he thought about what lay ahead, excitement building in his gut again. He started to drive, but more carefully this time. Slow and steady.
At last he pulled into a deserted parking area. It was ideal, remote and surrounded by trees. He had chosen well, he thought with satisfaction. He opened his window and the fresh air seemed to rouse her a little. She blinked, trying to work out where she was, and then noticed her skirt had ridden up slightly leaving her lacy panties on show. She giggled at the sight. The whore.
‘Just getting a rug out of the boot,’ he explained as he got out of the car. ‘Don’t want you getting cold.’ He smiled to himself at the irony, then quickly checked she hadn’t noticed. But she was too busy pulling her skirt down, trying to make herself look respectable again, to worry about what he was doing.
He hurried to get everything out of the boot. The folding bike was awkward to handle. It caught on the lip of the boot and he had to wrench it clear. He stopped, listening in case she realised what was going on, and he heard her try and open her door. He needn’t have worried. In her befuddled state it took her a while to realise that she couldn’t. She didn’t seem to understand why it wouldn’t open and kept trying. He smiled. He had plenty of time. He carried the bike to the edge of the trees and returned for the rest of his equipment.
She stopped banging the door against the post as she saw him return to the driver’s window.
‘Can’t get out,’ she said, voice slurred with drink and drugs. ‘Don’t feel well.’ She started to climb towards the driver’s side, but her tight skirt made movement difficult and it took her a moment to understand what she had seen in his hand. A petrol can. She looked up at him, puzzled, just as he started to splash the liquid inside the car, and over her.
‘What the fuck?’ she shouted, trying to shield herself from the petrol with her hands, suddenly sober. But it was a futile attempt to stop the inevitable, and he didn’t bother to answer her, just emptied the can and threw it behind him, towards the trees where he had left the bike. He took out a book of matches, tearing one off, lighting it and then using this match to light the rest of them. He threw the flaming matchbook into the car quickly, before it burnt his hand, grabbing the petrol can as he scurried back. Fast. He didn’t want to get caught out by being too close, but he didn’t want to move too far either, he wanted to see. He wanted to see her burn. He wanted to see her punished for her sins.
It took a moment for her to realise what had happened. What was happening. The first flames danced, prettily, and she tried to pat them, put them out with her petrol soaked hands. He almost laughed out loud as she waved her burning hands in the air, hoping the wind would douse the flames. Panicking now, she tried her door again and then started to climb across to the driver’s side, through the flames. She was shouting something, but he couldn’t hear her over the roar in his ears. Was it the roar of the fire taking hold or excitement? He thought she might have been shouting for help, but he couldn’t be sure.
Her hair was on fire now, her carefully styled and coloured hair was crackling and burning, leaving nothing but a blackened, blistered scalp, and she hadn’t even got across to the driver’s side yet. There was a sudden whoosh as the back windows blew out. Despite moving away from the car fast, he felt the rush of hot air on his face, not enough to burn or scald him, but a warning that he was too close. He would remember that in future. When he did this again. It was a shame, but he needed to keep his distance. He wouldn’t want to have to explain away any injuries later.
As he backed away from the car, dragging the bike and picking up the discarded petrol can, he watched as her attempts to escape grew less. He unfolded the bike and put the can in a plastic bag, stowing it safely in the back pannier. Her hands, already like claws, were still moving in a futile attempt to put the flames out, a scream frozen on her open mouth, her skin charring before her vaporizing eyeballs. And then she stopped. There was a pause as the fire really took hold, followed by an explosion as the petrol tank blew. Not as dramatic as in the films, but satisfying all the same. Was she dead before the petrol tank exploded? He would never know, but he hoped not. He took one last look, to make sure he had left nothing behind before pedalling away, burning leaves floating down around him, as he smiled at a job well done.
| Author Bio |
Candy Denman is a Crime and TV script writer of programmes such as The Bill, Heartbeat and Doctors. Author of the Dr Jocasta Hughes crime series set in Hastings.