Hot blood (bloodwords book 1)

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Hot Blood


 The victim of a savage attack, asuccessful businessman living in relative luxury points the finger of suspicionat a less successful family member, then becomes a suspect himself when acourting couple find a body in the woods. When, later, a man is found murderedin a car a few miles away, the realisation that a sophisticated serial killermight be on the loose changes the whole perception of the enquiry.


Withit’s unexpected twists and turns worked into parallel plot lines, Hot Bloodwill appeal to lovers of Ian Rankin, P.D. James, Peter Robinson and Peter Jamescrime novels. Centredaroundthe NW coastal resorttown of Southport, Hot Blood is based in a real region and cunningly weavesfact and fiction together into a seamless yarn readers will not be able to putaway.


HotBlood is not a book to read and pass on. Though complete in its entirety, someof the characters and general parameters it introduces are already being workedinto drafts for future plots. So Hot Blood is not just a debut novel; it willbecome the reference for those that follow, a Who’s Who?ofcharacters and a virtual directory of what, where, and when.


Readit, enjoy it – and keep it!



VicMarelleoriginally trained and practiced as aprofessional advertising photographer. Freelance magazine assignments led tohim providing complete feature packages combining photography and writing. Longperiods followed as feature writer for a number of internationalairlinein-flight magazines, motoring correspondent forseven local newspapers, a feature writer for UK national newspapers andspecialist corporate copywriter. Based in the region in which Hot Blood is set,he continues to write for Middle East magazines. Hot Blood is his first novel.

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This edition created entirely for eBook distribution.


This evaluation edition published 2012 and set in Baskerville10pt (with data sections set in Century Gothic) by Ace Corporate Editions


Copyright © VicMarelle2012

The right of VicMarelleto beidentified as the author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordancewith the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


Cover image ofLydiateHall © Ian W Bennett


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may bereproduced stored, transmitted or distributed in any form, including but notrestricted to hard copy, digital, Internetor other means, withoutthe express written approval of the copyright holder


All characters in this publication are fictitious and anyresemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Allmajor locations are entirely fictitious

Author’sNotes - The North West Coast


  Reading through my final draft,the variety of both landscape and people inhabiting it shone through page afterpage. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the UK, on the NW coastal plain onecan go from extreme to extreme in five minutes flat. From thatched cottages andchocolate box villages to glitzy shopping mall; from long stretches of desolategolden beach to bustling market towns; from built up concrete high risedevelopments to footballer’s palatial mansions and ruined buildings clothed inivy and undergrowth hiding centuries of guilty secrets. Indeed, the NW coastalplain has it all.


  So although this yarn is entirelyfictional, it is loosely set in a real region. Many of the towns, villages andeven some individual buildings featured in the story actually exist, as do someof the events I have described. Others however have been created specificallyfor my story and my challenge has been to intertwine them all and blur theiredges sufficiently so that you, my reader, cannot determine the one from theother.


  On the other hand, while I haveobserved lifearound me and the strange goings on of myfellow man (or woman),every single one of the characters in my story isa figment of my imagination and any similarity to real people is entirelycoincidental.




Purringlike a big cat, the car’s engine was still ticking over, while its driverremained deep in thought and not in any rush to get out. Even with its cheapgravel driveway, this house had cost a fortune. More than that, it had been amillstone around his neck for the ten years it had taken to turn a crumblingwreck of a barn and farm buildings into a stunning modern home. Warm yellowlight from the kitchen window shone through the dusk, bathing the car in itsmellow glow, yet for all it’s warmth, the dream had not been realised and allhe had left was a stone shell enclosing a cold depressing interior. Just owningthe house had attracted unwanted attention, damaged his business and broughthim to the brink of disaster. Where once a family dinner and a cosy night bythe fireside would have been a pleasure, now even the thought of being inside,the constant unease, the threats and insecurity, kept him outside on thegravel, held in the yellow beam like an actor in a spotlight.

  A barrier to life itself, couldAct One ever have a fairy tale ending, or would the performance turn into acomedy of errors? To stay outside would be better.Anythingto distance himself from the mess that had become their lives.

  But his wife would have heard thecar arrive. The kettle would be close to boiling and the TV game show wouldalready have been switched off.

  Slowly, he turned off theignition, gathered his briefcase and gloves from the passenger seat and flickedthe remote boot lid release. Making his way to the back of the car he retrievedhis laptop computer, closed the boot lid and straightened up to his fullheight.

  Grabbed from behind, he was flungroughly against the house wall. As the back of his head hit the cold hard stonehis vision clouded and firecrackers exploded behind his eyes. He took a punchin his stomach – followed by another and another, sliding down the wallas his knees buckled and his legs could no longer support him. Vicious kicksaccompanied sounds of cracking bones and short stabs of pain as he slid to theground and fell over into a crumpled heap.

  It all seemed to be happening inslow motion. Blows and kicks jarred his body. His legs and stomach were numband lifeless after the short, but vicious pounding. Vision was long gone andhis world had become black. Steel toe capped boots again drove into his groin.Drawing his elbows close in to his sides and covering his face for protection,he cowered into the foetal position. Dear God, let this end.

  Then it all stopped as quickly asit started. Silence. Now the real pain came. He could hear his pulse poundingin his head. Each beat brought a harsh stab that nearly blew his head apart.Between pulses his stomach and legs hurt more painfully than anything he hadever experienced. It had been quick and short, but brutal. Had they gone orwere they watching him, gloating over their vicious onslaught? His legswouldn’t work and he couldn’t sit up. He could taste blood but running histongue around his mouth his teeth still seemed to be intact, though a few atthe front were loose. Slowly he moved his hand inside his jacket. His ribs hurtand his shirt felt sticky. But his mobile was still inside his pocket and itfelt unbroken. Gingerly feeling the buttons and guessing their positions he keyedin hash and one – quick dial for home.

  A phone rang inside the house.More lights came on and after a hurriedly exclaimed ‘shit’ he heard footstepson the gravel and a car door slam. Then it drove away.




Tapping his fingers impatiently on the steeringwheel, Steve Wilson cursed his luck. Though he had driven this route time andagain, he had never been delayed. Not ever. Every now and then he might havehad to bide his time waiting for an opportunity to pass a slow moving car, andsometimes he had to allow for groups of cyclists riding three abreast –they were infuriating - but that was mainly at weekend when the narrow windinglanes attracted sightseers and Sunday drivers into the countryside. Even so,traffic jams were unheard of.

Until today.

He preferred this longer route because the maindual carriageway that hugged the coast was often clogged by Liverpool boundcommuter traffic or Southport tourists. These back lanes, always relativelyfree of traffic, were usually much quicker. In any case, winding lanes weremuch more fun to drive.

So what had happened to make today different?What on earth was causing the holdup? If only the stoppage had been anotherhalf mile down the lane then he could have taken a right and cut through to thebypass, or if he’d known about it earlier he could have cut off at theScarisbrickArms.

Not exactly a small man - his wife describedhim as ‘thick set’ but others just made do with ‘fat’ - sitting cramped up in acar seat that was too small on a warm day with the engine running and no A/Cwasn’t his idea of fun. A dribble of sweat started to run down his forehead,dripping off his eyebrow. Dabbing his brow with a tissue in one hand he reachedout with the other, flicked a switch and the driver’s door window slid down.The breeze was welcome, but not so other cars’ fumes accompanying it. Back upwent the window.

Get moving damned you!

Now he was getting really ruffled. Opening thecar door he manoeuvred his bulk so that, standing with one foot on the road andone still inside the car, holding on to the door to keep his balance he couldsee over the cars in-front. They were stationary for as far as he could see,which wasn’t very far anyway, the road ahead curving to disappear behind a rowof trees. Up ahead he could see that several drivers had left their cars andwere stood talking in the road. Getting out completely he walked over to jointhem.

‘What’s up?’ heaskedas he got nearer.

‘An’tgorraclue mate’ replied a skinny little man wearing adesigner tee shirt, a baseball cap and crumpled jeans. ‘On’tradio they just said road’s closed by an accident and traffic’s stopped.’

‘Shit’ said Steve. If the cars didn’t getmoving soon, there wouldn’t be any point in his carrying on.

‘What sort of accident?’ he asked. ‘And why arethe emergency services taking so long to get us on our way?’

‘How do I know?’ said crumpled jeans. ‘Thidin’tsay no more than itwere an accident and road were closed.’

Back in his car Steve’s temper was almost atbreaking point. Turning on Radio Merseyside he found that he was listening toDJ Roger Phillips talking to a man stuck in a traffic jam caused by anaccident. From the sound of it, it was his traffic jam and the man was probablyout of view, just around the corner. According to the DJ, the police wereestimating at least an hour before the road could be reopened.

A bloody hour.And then how long before they all got moving?He struck out in sheer desperation, smashing his fist into the steering wheelboss. A car horn shrieked. Crumpled jeans stuck his hand out of the car infront and gave Steve aVee. What was that for? Thenhe realised, it had been his horn blowing when he had hit the wheel. Calm downSteve.

Behind him, impatient drivers were making threepoint turns. Hot under the collar, Steve followed suit.




Driving along the by-pass, Wilson was again inhigh spirits. Just a few short miles to go and he would at last be turning offto the airfield. With no telephones ringing, no difficult customers to sortout, no wife nagging about his weight or what time he would be home, and nodratted traffic jams either, flying was Steve's favourite antidote forwork-time blues. Since buying themicrolightaircrafthe had spent as much of his spare time flying as he could, or swapping yarns inthe clubhouse with fellow enthusiasts when conditions were not suitable. Today,even though he’d lost the best part of an hour, sufficient time remained andconditions were very suitable. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and hardly abreath of wind either.

Turning off thedual-carriageway,he eased the car along a narrow track, kicking up clouds of dust as henegotiated the potholes and ruts of the dirt road. Just a quarter of a mile on,the track took an acute right turn then a long lazy curve to skirt a smallcoppice. Another sharp turn and the airfield appeared magically as if out ofnowhere.

Little more than a farmer’s field across whicha swathe had been mown as a runway, the airfield couldn’t be seen from theroad, and even close up only a cluster of portable cabins indicated anythingmore than corn and root crops.

As if crafted by giant schoolboys and lookinglike huge triangular paper darts atop rather frail looking tubular framework,four machines were parked line abreast. Big fabric covered wings were cantedwith one tip on the ground. School aircraft used for training, they were thelatest models combining advanced technology and lightweight components.Extensions on their control bars allowed a rear seat instructor to override hisstudent in the front seat. Was this the ultimate back seat driver arrangement?

Wilson’s trike was his pride and joy. An oldermodel, there were no extensions on its control bar – Wilson could flyalone. But first he would need to drag the aircraft out of its hangar and getit ready for flight. Parking his car near the clubhouse – really aeuphemism for one of the portable cabins – Wilson humped his kit bag outof his boot and trudged around to the hangar – another euphemism, thistime for a 40ft metal sea container – where hismicrolightwas stored.

The container was far narrower than theaircraft’s triangular wing, which meant that the wing had to be removed forstorage. But rigging the aircraft, fixing the wing on top of the buggy liketubular trike before flight, was never a chore. Indeed, with the prospect offlight looming, fixing the wing, checking cables and getting the minisculecraft airworthy served only to heighten his anticipation and excitement forwhat was to come, pushing his earlier frustrations aside. And once the aircrafthad been rigged, donning his one-piece flying suit, his gloves and helmet,signalled the final pre-flight procedure.

‘Clear prop!’

Behind Wilson, the tiny Austrian ex-snowmobileengine burst into life. Increasing the throttle just enough to inch the trikeforward, he taxied out to the runway. Turning onto the mown swathe, he pulledthe control bar back close to his chest to tip the wing down while giving theengine full power. Cushioned only by rather ineffective and rather limitedsuspension, he could feel every bump and undulation of the ground through the little machine’ssmall wheels as he gained speed. But sensing rotation point as speed rose, hepushed the control bar forward to increase lift and themicrolightseemed to just jump into the air.

The bouncing and harsh vibrations stopped asthe ground fell away and the aircraft settled into a steady climb. Once overthe by-pass on which he had driven such a short time ago he banked themicrolightsouth towards the Mersey. Flying first pastCrosby up to the coast-guard point, the furthest he could legally fly withoutentering Liverpool Airport’s controlled airspace, would give him the longestpossible flight back along the coast – a magnificent sight if ever therewas one – and his favourite route.

Pushing the control bar over to his left putthemicrolightinto a gentle bank to his right, whichhe held until he had flown a complete U-turn and was flying back along thecoast. Flying as free as a bird, the view really was magical. From this heightthe coastline could have come straight out of a Mediterranean holiday brochure,such was its magnificence.

Sandwiched between a gently rippled sea andundulating sand dunes topped by tufts of grass with their fronds waving gentlyin the breeze, lay a long ribbon of golden beach running from his turning pointclose to the Mersey estuary as far north as theRibbleestuary. Along those miles it’s name changed many times – Crosby Beach,Hightown, Formby,Freshfield,Ainsdale,Birkdale, Southport– but it was in reality one glorious stretch of magnificent coastline.

And flying above it was a privilege. Thoughjust minutes from home, looking down he could be thousands of miles away insome sun drenched Mediterranean idyll.

He could see families strolling along Southportpier and couples walking along the Marine Drive. Minutes earlier as he hadflown over Formby Point he had watched two horses frolicking at the edge of thesea. Life was good.

Banking the little aircraft, he flew inlandand, using familiar roads and buildings as a guide, flew over his own house,before turning again to fly back to the airfield. Losing a little height to geta closer look, he could see several police vehicles close to a recovery truckand a little hatchback. The hatch was on its side in a drainage gulley runningalongside the road. Several feet below road level, the truck driver wasstruggling to attach a hitch to drag the car out. This must have been thereason for the earlier holdup, but apart from the emergency vehicles, the roadwas now clear. His drive home could be along his favourite route – and ina better temper than the outward trip.



Turning the gas down on the hob, Joan spokeover her shoulder to her husband, busily setting the table in the open plandining area. ‘Perhaps he might not be trying to get it at all. He might just bepushing in one direction to actually go in another.’ Pausing momentarily shewent on, ‘Or then again, he might be. And if he is then he could do anythingcouldn’t he?’

 ‘Whatin heavens name are you going on about?’ he quipped. ‘You are talking inriddles. You’ve lost me.’

The man really was exasperating. Couldn’t heunderstand plain English? Wiping her hands on a tea towel she turned from thecooker to face her husband. ‘Well, he knows full well that we bought the barnfrom Dad and that he’s no rights to it at all, so perhaps he is just throwingthe house into the argument to pressure us into giving him more money. Can’tyou see, it makes sense.’

 ‘Noit doesn’t love.’ The table set, Mike had hobbled painfully down the threesteps to their huge living area, which with its mezzanine gallery and twostorey high windows giving views over their fields, was his favourite room inthe whole house. ‘We bought the buildings true enough, but not the fields andthe land the barn stands on. Your Dad gifted those to us. So now that the oldman is gone, your brother has decided that they are all half his. And if he canget his grubby little hands on the land, then since our house stands on it, thehouse comes for free as well. No my love, your dear brother is claiming hishalf of everything as though it still belonged to your Dad and hadn’t beengifted in the first place; your Dad is no longer with us so he knows that thereis nobody to contradict him. I think that he is going for the jugular.’

‘Oh Mike’ she exclaimed. ‘Isn’t thatmelodramatic? Surely my own brother wouldn’t try to grab it all for himself andleave me homeless? And what about the original documents – they will showthat it was all legal.’

‘Only if they exist’ Mike responded. ‘There’s alot at stake so brotherly love might well have gone out the window. As fordocuments, your dear brother is using your Dad’s solicitor. That’s convenientto say the least. He drew the gift up but what’s the betting that he’ll saythat there are no records of anything and he doesn’t recall any such gift.’

‘If I could find our copies then it would allbe cut and dried.’.

‘Of course it would. But we can’t. We’ve beenthrough this a million times. We were in such a mess when we were convertingthe barn that we didn’t know where anything was and it’s my guess that when thecontractors cleared the site, some boxes of things we should have kept werethrown away with the rubbish, so documentation of the gift is among the thingswe don’t have. All we have is the record at the Land Registry. That proves thatwe own everything. But that’s not the issue. It’s how we came to own it allthat he is jumping up and down about. We know the land was gifted, your brotherknows it was gifted, bloody hell, everyone knows that it was gifted, but hefeels left out of your Pop’s will and is fighting for what he believes is hisinheritance. At least, that is whathe is claiming. You and I both know that that is not the real motive. He’sdesperate, needs money and land, and this is a way to get both. If that wasn’tthe case my guts wouldn’t be as raw as the meat on the butcher’s slab and Iwouldn’t be walking about like a cripple or living on pain killers.’

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang.Their discussion cut abruptly, the unspoken question of who their visitor mightbe hung in the air as they looked worriedly at each other. Was this the bigguns coming out? Was somebody coming to add some weight to the previous pressure?Was this unfinished business? Mike raised his eyebrows, pursed his lips and,looking at his wife, shook his head slowly from side to side in a visual ‘I’veno idea’ response.

Joan brought two strangers into the room. ‘It’sthe police Mike.’

‘Good evening Mr Johnson.’ The older of thetwo, a tall and immaculately dressed man in his fifties, with clean featuresand greying hair beginning to recede introduced himself as Detective InspectorRadcliffe and his sidekick as Detective Sergeant Fraser. ‘We’d like to ask youa few questions about the attack please.’

Rubbing his bruised ribs, Mike struggled torise then fell back into his chair. Normally placid, pain had taken its toll onhis patience. His face ruddy and veins starting to protrude, the prospect ofrepeating yet again what he had already said several times pushed him evencloser to snapping.

‘For Christ’s sake inspector’ he stormed, ‘Iknow who worked me over and I’m trying to forget it as much as I can, but youlot keep turning up to remind me. Pardon my cynicism but I’ve already told youexactly what happened and who attacked me but nobody seems to care a shit. Isuggest that you check back in your reports if you want the details. Now ifthat’s all, we are about to eat our evening meal. Goodbye inspector.’

‘I’m sorry if you’ve been troubled that muchsir,’ said the tall officer. ‘I am not surprised that you want to put it allbehind you as much as possible but a beating of the severity you received is aserious crime and we cannot just ignore it. As for who did it, at the moment wedon’t know. But please Mr Johnson, don’t keep blaming your brother-in-law. Atthe time you were being attacked he was nowhere near here. We have witnessescorroborating that.’

‘No he wasn’t. I tell you it was definitelyhim. I know that it was dark and by the time I was facing him my vision hadgone anyway, but it was him. There’s no doubt at all. It’s not just the attack.He’s breaking my family and trying to steal my house, so if you cannot sort himout then he’ll have another go at me. Before I’ll let that happen I will killthe bugger myself.’

‘Mr Johnson,’ the young sergeant cut in. ‘Iadvise you not to make rash accusations like that. We want a conclusion just asmuch as you do and I assure you that we are making progress. We’ve takenon-board what you have said and we are continuing to make enquiries, both withrespect to your brother-in-law and to any other potential suspect. But at themoment he’s in the clear.’

‘Like hell he is!’

‘Mr Johnson, please keep an open mind.’ Why dideverybody get bogged down with their own agenda instead of accepting the factsthought the inspector. ‘We need to check up on a few things to help us resolvethis. Did you come straight back here to the house that evening or did you divertsomewhere else on the way?’

‘Why is that important? I was jumped at theback of my car in my own driveway so what the devil has my route from work tohome got to do with anything?’

Give me strength thought Radcliffe. Who’sasking the questions here? Given the facts they knew, the dreadedbrother-in-law wasn’t even in the frame for the attack so Johnson’s route homewould be entirely relevant. If he had stopped off somewhere then he might havebeen followed, say by an opportune thief spying his chance only to befrightened off when the phone rang and lights came on.

Or what if Johnson was playing away? Now thatwas a thought. In front of hiswife, wouldn’t that explain why he didn’t want to disclose whether or not hehad come directly home from his shop? Yes, quite a possibility. If Johnson washaving something of a dalliance, what if the lady’s husband had been watchingand had followed him back home. Plenty of scope in that theory wasn’t there?And opportunity too.

‘Well it could be important. Your shop closesat five thirty and it’s only fifteen minutes drive back here toCrosshillVillage, but you said that you didn’t arriveuntil around eight thirty. That leaves almost three hours unaccounted for.Wherever you were, anybody could have followed you back here and unless we cancheck it all out we will be none the wiser. Help us out here Mr Johnson.’

This really was getting nowhere except forround and round in circles. Radcliffe looked Johnson in the eye with aquizzical expression and left the silence to do its work. Radcliffe was a pastmaster of the silence psychology and knew that Johnson would be the first tobreak. He’s also wager that no matter where he had been or what he had beendoing, and despite his wife’s sudden attentiveness, the beans would be spilled.

It wasn’t Johnson but a strident wail thatsuddenly broke the spell. Over inthe kitchen a smoke alarm was vibrating itself to destruction, sounding likethe air exiting the stretched neckof a balloon.

Oh crikey. The carrots!’ exclaimed Joan as sheflung herself up the steps into the split-level kitchen. ‘I left them on a lowlight and they must have boiled dry. Just look at them, burned to a cinder.Mike, can you shut that blasted siren up?’

Crunching across the gravel, the sergeantlooked at his superior. ‘What do you make of that then? He’s adamant that hisbrother-in-law worked him over isn’t he? Do you think that there’s anycredibility in it? To me he just seems so hell bent on it that he cannot seeany other alternative.’

‘He could be right at that Fraser. Don’t ruleanything out until it is proven and cast in stone. He might look to be on thebetter side now but if I had been worked over to the extent that Johnson wasand I had recognised the voice of my attacker, I would be hell bent on bringinghim to justice as well, even if my attacker was a relative. Actually, probablymoreso. All the same, that dratted smoke alarm stopped usgetting an answer to where he was between closing his shop and getting home.There could be more than meets the eye there or it could just be a red herring,so let’s keep all our options open and not preconceive anything. We need todelve a little before we make assumptions. Maybe a look at his shop willsuggest a few options.’




Walking down the street, Radcliffe couldn’thelp but cast his mind back a decade or so. What had been a thriving area ofthe town centre had, without doubt, gone downhill. The supermarket had onlylasted a couple of years before moving to a new site and the old store hadbecome an eyesore; an empty shell with filthy windows and graffiti spatteredwalls. Further up the street, empty shops stood shoulder to shoulder with a fewin which hopeful new tenants were trying their hardest to start businesses.They seldom lasted more than three months and usually lost all their money.

Crossing over and turning the corner, abouthalf way down a block of shops he could see The Palette. The street ranobliquely to the empty supermarket and although every shop was occupied andtrading, the common view was that that was but temporary. The council’sintroduction of a one-way traffic system with bollards at each end of thispreviously thriving thoroughfare had not turned it into a bustlingpedestrianisedshopping centre but, rather, an empty streetdevoid of any shoppers. Yet just around the corner, Chapel Street had benefitedfrompedestrianisation, attracting top line multiplesand drawing shoppers away from Southport’s established traditional traders.

Reputedly, Mike Johnson had made a packet out ofhis art shop. A career change to rid himself of the stresses of being a chef ina busy coastal resort hotel, he had invested his savings and indulged hispassion – painting. Everybody in town knew The Palette. And they knewMike Johnson. Something of an extrovert, he had become the local celebrity,regularly teaching small and large groups. In good weather, old ladies, wealthywives with too much spare time, and anyone else who would pay the course fee,trooped out with their easels and little wooden boxes full of paint and brushesto create pretty views of the Marine Lake, Promenade or beach. And when thatwas not possible they sat around in Johnson’s studio above the shop.

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