Archives For Manchester

Ms Holmes

All John Watson wanted to do was hit the streets of Manchester and celebrate his birthday. What he didn’t count on was his friend, SH, crashing back into his life after a three year absence.

In a whirlwind 24 hours, John is thrown into a grotesque mystery and learns that SH has more than a few secrets in her knapsack.

Who is Michael?

What’s in the mysterious package left on a Wythenshawe doorstep?

And why exactly can’t Jurassic Park happen?

A modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, fans will appreciate the many nods and tributes to the world’s most famous consulting detective!

 

 

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Ms Holmes: The Alderley Edge Vampire

SH has had enough. John has had enough of SH.

They both want something to kill the monotony of a consultancy dry patch.

Enter the PA for one of Manchester’s newest and brightest authors – The Alderley Edge Vampire.

Join Manchester’s only consulting detective/ex-criminal as she reluctantly jumps feet first into a case of stolen jewellery, gothic writers and the palatial homes of Alderley Edge.

And, as an added bonus, find out why SH has an issue with Stephen Hawking.

 

 

Available from:

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Ms Holmes: Baskerville

080221-091118When one of SH’s close friends runs away from her abusive father, she follows her to the village of Stepford, which is playing host to the Shadow of the Beast rave.

Plagued with concern for her friend, surrounded by temptation, and with John Watson nowhere to be found, SH looks for guidance and support in the rave’s organiser, Charles Baskerville, and homeless tearaway, Jack.

Told in SH’s own words, Ms Holmes: Baskerville will see Manchester’s only consulting detective facing up against some personal demons and shedding more light on those three years she was away from Watson.

‘I messed up, John. I think I messed up.’

 

 

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Ms Holmes 2: Title to be confirmed is in the editing stages and due for release in April. Until then, here’s a sneaky peek of the first chapter.

Originally, this was to be a short Christmas based piece of fluff that I was going to upload as a larf. However, I very soon realised it would be a good way to reintroduce the characters in my second story.

Official cover art. Though probably not. Definitely not.

Official cover art. Though probably not. Definitely not.

Full disclosure: This is raw and uncut, which means there are a few errors that will be ironed out when the story is officially published. That said, I hope you enjoy it. I can’t wait to share the rest of it with you.

You can pick up a copy of the first Ms Holmes today from:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

Amazon.com

Smashwords.com

 

Chapter 1 – The Fort

Having noticed I’d left my bedroom door open after returning from a date the previous night, Hudson had decided that I would be the one who would attend to her request for breakfast. Her warm fishy breath, an unwelcome a wake-up call as any, had ruined a particularly delicious dream about an X-Factor contestant. Wrenching my sleeping mask off, I was greeted by Hudson, fat furry and sat on my chest, meowing silently at me for attention. It took a moment for me to realise the reason for her lack of vocals, and I pulled out my ear plugs. Immediately, I was reminded why I had put them in in the first place. Loud French hip hop encroached its way into my personal space, in the same manner as Hudson, through the open door.

SH was still in a mood.

Pushing Hudson off me to much protest, I sighed and set about putting back on the underpants and t-shirt I had discarded previously. When I had first moved into Flat 2b, Level 2, Baker House, SH had warned me of her mood swings. Having been brought up by her bootstraps by an underachieving mother, her father absent, and her brother killed whilst on duty, it would surprise no one that SH had a few emotional creases she had yet to iron out of herself. Her long periods of silence in high school could have been put down to the surly attitude of a teenager not getting her own way, but now in her twenties, there was clearly a lot more going on under the hood. A fair bit of time was needed to unpick the mess of fairy lights that rolled into view on occasion. It was all very sad, but still…

‘Does she have to play it so bloody loud?’ I muttered to Hudson.

Hudson meowed more out of her need for me to hurry up and open a can, than in agreement about her owner’s unsociable music. Turning to present me her butthole – as cat’s invariably always seem to want to – she tiptoed quickly out of the room. And having been successfully trained by her in the 6 or seven months I had lived here, I followed dutifully.

The living area – an open plan living room and kitchen area – was exactly as I had witnessed it when I returned last night. Two empty 2l bottles of soft drink on the breakfast bar, a cold pizza with one slice missing sat on the office desk in the corner, and the cushions from the three-piece suite had abandoned their natural habitat to be used as a part of a blanket fort that sat prominently next to our gas fire. Smoke occasionally escaped from cracks in the blankets that covered the fort. Either a new Pope was regularly being announced, or SH was in her makeshift home.

The music had changed to an old tune that we used to head bang ironically to back in our uni days. I strode over to the stereo and switched it off before the singer could get any further in his anger about this dad. An iPod plugged into the speakers eh? We must be angry if we weren’t using the vinyl.

‘What you doing?’ said a voice from inside the fort.

‘Giving my ears and those of our neighbours a rest.’ I said walking over to the kitchen, setting about the necessary details for a decent brew.

‘No one’s complained, have they?’ Less a question and more of statement.

As the kettle boiled, I noticed some post had been pushed under our front door. Picking the pile up, I realised they were all handwritten notes. A few in the same handwriting.

‘”Can you please turn your music down?” I read aloud. “Please, I don’t want to cause a fuss, but it really is very late?” “What kind of person doesn’t answer the door when someone is knocking?” Hear that SH? There was knocking.’

I reached the last note.

‘This one just says ‘Bastard!’

There was a rustle from inside the fort and SH’s head popped out of from what you had to assume amongst the blankets and cushions was the front. She’d done something to her hair which, now slicked back, gave her the look of a 19th century boxer or Al Capone, should he have ever decided to have a undercut. Her light brown skin was annoyingly smooth as ever, but dark shadows under her eyes highlighted a distinct lack of sleep.

‘Bastard?’ she smiled ‘Really? That succinct?’

‘Yep.’

Her head disappeared back in the fort and was replaced a moment later by her hand

‘Giz a look, yeah?’

I walked the few short steps to her fort and placed the notes in her hand which disappeared back inside the fort. There was a sound of rustling before a ball of paper flew out from the gap in the blankets as if fired from an unforeseen cannon.

‘Number 2a. Pretty obvious,’ SH said from inside.

Another shot was fired.

‘Tiny handwriting. Big loops. Smells of tobacco. That’s the dirty sod from upstairs. No love lost there.’

A steady stream of paper balls flew out now.

‘Flat 3 with corrections made by Flat 1 downstairs. I hope his wife knows where he was last night.’

‘Are you done?’ I said, trying to keep my amusement to myself. I was after all in a bollocking mood.

‘That’s all the news to print, yeah.’ SH responded.

‘Not your carnival trick. This!’ I said, placing a hand on the top of her fort. ‘We’re now clocking on to 24 hours. How long is this expected to stand?’

As I gave it a ‘gentle’ shake, the fortress she housed herself from the world turned out to be surprisingly flimsy.

‘Avalanche!’ SH screamed as her microcosm collapsed around her. ‘You bastard!’

Rising from the cushions and blankets like an ill-tempered phoenix, SH threw an accusatory stare at me as I skittered back to the kitchen and attended to the tea.

‘Joke’s on you, yeah?’ she seethed. ‘You got cigarette ash on everything.’

‘Worth it.’ I smiled, warming the pot.

‘Including your Garfield cushion.’

‘Bugger.’

‘Victory is mine!’ SH cheered, arms raised and making her way to the breakfast bar.

Sitting herself at the table, I poured her a cup of tea; three sugars, no milk.

‘So, why have you been living like a nomad in your own flat?’ I asked, popping bread into the toaster.

‘I’m bored, John.’ SH sighed. ‘How long have we been doing this?’

‘Well, for me it’s been six months.’

Six wonderful months at the side of my dearest and closest friend. Six months of helping people, really helping people. ‘We are an agency that gives agency,’ I liked to say. SH said that sounded dreadful and so I wasn’t allowed to refer to our business that way again.

With my mum’s house rented out to students, I had supplemented the income from that with a part time job at a second hand book shop near the Arndale Centre. The owner was a miserable sod who lived at the bottom of a bottle of red, but he was surprisingly relaxed about my often, and often erratic, sabbaticals. SH charging ahead ready to solve a mission, and me close behind ready to lend a hand for the good of the women of Manchester and beyond.

‘As if we’ve ever been further than Liverpool!’ SH interrupted my thoughts. ‘I can always tell when you’re romanticising what we’ve been up to. Let’s be honest it’s all been a bit quiet.’

‘I thought you wanted to do this to help people, make a change and all that.’ I said. ‘You can’t expect every case to be a towering monument to Social justice. If you start thinking like that, then you’re effectively wishing ill will on people. Isn’t that right?’

SH opened her mouth as if to argue the point, but then shrugged and let her head fall to the table surface.

After the incident with her brother Michael, SH had set up her practice as a means of helping women, helping them to seek justice. A smattering of cases had seen her really pushed to the edge of her talents, but if truth be told, things had got a bit… quiet. Whereas once SH had lurked in the shadows of Manchester’s underground on a near daily basis on behalf of her brother, Michael, she was beginning to find stepping out into the sunlight proving to be less than advantageous. SH’s last case had been a rather non remarkable incident involving a misplaced Take That CD.

‘I know.’ She sighed into the table. ‘I know. I know. I know! But… The last month or so…’

‘I know, Shelly’ I offered my hand

A swift whack on my wrist warned me about the name I used. SH was veracious with her nickname. I can’t even remember when it was we’d first stopped calling her Shelly. I do remember my mum, upon seeing her new moniker written down, had refused to stop calling her ‘Ssssssh’ for about a week.

‘You could always join me in the bookstore,’ I continued. ‘You know, take you mind off things.’

‘Yeah, right.’ SH tutted, finally lifting her head up ‘That’d help me. Be like you? Another miniscule cog in the corporate bastard machine. Ooh, my name’s John and I’ve got a 9 to 5 job.’

‘I work, like, two days a week…’

SH grabbed the newspaper I’d placed on the breakfast bar, and flicked through it. Whilst I buttered my toast, she emitted a long sigh. In moods like this, her sighs were always so long. As if her very nature of being was going through some sort of extraction process.

‘LOOK AT THIS!’ She said, whacking my arm with the newspaper before showing me the page that had caught her interest.

The headline read: Greystoke Heir Still Missing After Crash Over Jungle.

‘It’s a fake!’ She cried. ‘He’s doing it for the publicity. There’s references in here about a recent drugs bust and a break up from a Kardashian, whatever that is. He’s very likely lying low in the most media hungry manner possible. He’ll come back in a few weeks, cap in hand, with some new found respect in God and saying he can talk to chimps or something.’

‘And your point being?’

‘I could be helping the police with that.’ She barked. ‘Save them loads of money they’d otherwise be using on pulling his privileged arse out of the bush.’

In what some would consider an overly dramatic move – something I would never say to her face – SH swung round on the stool and plodded over to window that overlooked our balcony. The sound of a match being lit soon followed and smoked billowed from her silhouette. To this day, I cannot tell you where she hides those cigarettes.

What I can you tell is that I knew if a case didn’t appear on our doorstep soon, I was worried that SH may change her mind and actually join me at the bookstore.

It was then – as is often appropriate in tales like these – there was a knock at the door.

‘Hello!’ Came a well-spoken southern accent on the other side. ‘I’m looking for Ms. Holmes. Someone let me in downstairs. Hello?’

Turning round, SH wrapped her dressing gown around her and made a motion for me to open the door. Instead I watched her as she tried to position herself next to the window in a manner that would suggest she wasn’t trying very hard not to look like she was trying very hard to look nonchalant. She put one hand her hip and let their cigarette droop in her mouth. She turned back to face the window and turned her head to look over her left shoulder, her eyelids half drooping. Noticing that I was staring at her and stifling a giggle, she made a vulgar hand gesture and signalled once again for me to open the door.

I opened the door to be greeted by a stunning redhead. Her pale skin was a stark contrast to her auburn hair. Her delicate features sharpened by severe and sharp make up; deep red lipstick and violet eye-shadow. On anyone else this would be tacky but on her…

‘Good morning.’ I beamed. ‘I’m John Watson.’

‘You’re not wearing any trousers.’ Our guest responded.

 

My story, Ms Holmes, is on sale now! However, if you’re not sure it’s for you, then why not check out this sneaky peek at the first chapter!

Chapter 1

Once Upon a Time…

It had been SH’s idea to go back to Manchester.

Studying in Bangor meant dropping in on family and friends was very easy – our home town in England being only a 2-hour train journey away – and feeling drained by my own dissertation, I was well up for the trip.

Our train journey was quiet. After a few cautious words of polite talk, SH had put her headphones on and sporadically napped. I took to reading and enjoying the scenery. I’m old fashioned that way.

In the moments when SH was awake, we made plans for our arrival back at our old stomping ground. It was decided that we would do our own thing on this first day back and meet up in the evening for drinks. Arriving at Piccadilly station, she went one way and I went mine. I did offer her a blow up mattress at Mum’s as I was concerned about her staying in her flat by herself. However, she declined saying she had to ‘see someone about a horse’. I let her go, hoping that she would be okay.

Later that evening, I was at home with Mum, watching Big Brother highlights and full of food.

‘It just seems daft that she wouldn’t want to stay with us,’ Mum tutted in the ad break. ‘Little Ms. Holmes. She thinks she’s so street-smart. Honestly, the amount of hair I’ve pulled out over her.’

Although to the untrained ear, my mother’s tone was of annoyance, the truth was far from it. Mum was just as concerned about SH’s whereabouts as I. Having been there for her on many occasion during our teens, Mum had come to think of SH as a daughter.

‘SH just needs some time I think, Mum,’ I said. ‘As frustrating as she’s admittedly being.’

‘Johnny, do you remember that time she turned up at our door in the middle of the night?’ Mum sighed, ‘Little ten-year-old, no shoes on her feet. Oh, that mother of hers. Always fighting with her son…’

The accidental mention of SH’s brother brought Mum to silence. Ford, a community police officer in the Manchester constabulary, had been killed on duty a few months previously and SH had been refusing to address the situation ever since. Her concentration at university had dissipated. The amateur dramatics she had enjoyed so fondly in the first two years of her degree had come second to her constant disappearances during the week and returning reeking of booze. It was clear to me that she was on a crash course into oblivion.

She reached out for my hand and squeezed it. Mum was like SH in some ways and I know, even if she’d be the last to admit it, that Ford’s death had affected her. It was then that I got the call from SH.

Answering, I was met with noise and static; the sounds of Manchester in full swing on a Saturday night. Obviously SH had butt-dialled me. Realising that she would not be able to hear my queries of where she was, I decided that perhaps waiting for her to come to us was a terrible idea, and certainly wasn’t going to afford me any rest. A few moments deliberation allowed me to realise where SH was. Catching the 86, I made my way into town and towards Diogenes; the nightclub which was rumoured, as many of the clubs of Manchester were at that time, to be under the ownership of nefarious types usually not seen outside of a Guy Ritchie movie.

The exterior of the club throbbed to the music within. I was more accustomed to a pint and a fag down the Via Fossa, and felt fatally underdressed next to the white Rastafarians and black goths that joined me in the queue. Making my way to the front and handing over a fiver, I finally made my way in. Whatever noise I heard from outside was nothing to the cacophony that assaulted me entering the main dance room. Incessant chatter and flirting fought for attention over the ear-splitting wailing and gnashing of teeth that soundtracked the evening. It was as if the club had a rule that banned silence altogether.

I quickly scanned the room and my eyes fell upon SH in the middle of the dancefloor, her light brown skin turned blue under the club’s lights. Under any other circumstances, the sight of her 6-foot frame staggering in a pretence of dancing amongst the mini-moshers would have been enough for a laugh. However, now of course, the picture was beyond mockery. Unlit fag in mouth, swaying in time to a song that was only in her head, SH held one fist in the air whilst carrying a bottle of beer in the other hand.

As an only child, I would never understand the loss of a sibling. And yet, to this very day I will always think of my life long friend’s tragic pantomime of fun that night as a perfect encapsulation of the myriad emotions that were squatting in her mind.

At that moment, a large skinhead began to make advances towards her. He sidled up, thrusting his hips into her back side. When her total indifference failed to ward him off, it was the bottle she failed to bring down on his head that tipped him over the edge. He began to jostle and push SH. Due to what my husband would now call my ‘idiotic white knight streak’, I pushed my way through the crowd to offer assistance.

‘—king bitch,’ I heard him cry.

‘Do you want some?’ SH responded as I wrapped my arms around her waist. ‘I know bartitsu mate. I’ll Keanu Reeves your arse.’

‘She’s had a bit to drink,’ I offered as way of explanation.

‘She’s pilling off her tits.’

‘Tits!’ SH laughed. ‘Hear that, John! Can’t even come up with a suitable comeback that doesn’t boil me down to my base assets. Typical bloody apes!’

SH tried to break free of my grip and launch herself at the man. Before I lost my grip, I too felt a pair of arms around me as SH and I were lifted off the dancefloor by a bouncer and out of the club.

Several moments later, we were sat on the curb outside the Diogenes, sharing a cigarette. SH’s head bobbed up and down as if agreeing with a point I was yet to make.

‘That helpful was it?’ I asked, exhaling deeply.

‘Your Mum’s roast dinner okay?’ she slurred.

‘What?’

‘Your Mum’s roast dinner. There’s a splash of gravy on your left shirt cuff. As you constantly tell me, you can’t cook to save your life. And seeing as we’re back in Manchester, literally the only other person who would be cooking for you is your mother. Now equally you could have been out for a meal with any – belch – any number of the lovely boys on your Nokia. However, Mummy knows best doesn’t she?’

‘Don’t play your tricks now,’ I blushed. ‘Just tell me what the hell was going on in there.’

The response: ‘I have to go somewhere, yeah?’

‘Where?’

‘I dunno.’ She lit another cigarette. ‘Just got to get away for a bit.’

‘Look your brother is—‘

‘Just listen to me,’ she sighed. ‘I’m off. My mind is rebelling at all this stagnation, yeah?’

Dumbfounded by her attitude, I found myself stationary as SH lifted herself of the curb and began to clomp away in her heavy boots.

‘Where… Where are you going?’ I managed to stutter. ‘What about uni?’

‘Bollocks to it,’ she shouted over her shoulder. ‘There’s a big bloody world out there, John. See you in a couple of months.’

 

You can pick up a copy today from:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

Amazon.com