Heart Swarm – Prepare to be Scared…
It feels like history is repeating itself when out-of-favour detective Will Harlan gets summoned to a crime scene in the village of Brackenbrae after a young girl is found hanging in the woods.
Five years ago Harlan headed up the investigation of an identical murder in the same woods; a mishandled investigation that effectively destroyed his credibility as a detective. The new case immediately takes a bizarre twist when the body is identified as the same girl found hanging in the woods five years ago.
The following day a local man commits suicide and the police find more dead girls hidden in his basement. The case seems open and closed.
Until the killing spree begins.
Harlan finds himself drawn into a dark world where murder is a form of self-expression and human life treated as one more commodity to be used and discarded.
The only clue that links everything is a large oil painting of ‘Sagittarius A’ – a massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy orbited by thirteen stars daubed in blood with the words –
EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK!!
The phone rang at twelve thirty a.m. on Christmas morning. Harlan’s first thought was to ignore the intrusion and let the call go to voice mail. It wasn’t going to be anyone wishing him a merry Christmas. There was also the fact he was sprawled in bed with Cara McAullay. She was propped on one elbow, her small breasts challenging him to prepare for another skirmish. She poked him in the ribs with a knuckle.
‘You going to answer that?’
His gaze stayed fixed on her breasts. ‘Thinking about it. You realise it probably means a shit start to Christmas Day.’
‘You mean it could get worse?’
He hoped she was joking. With Cara it was never obvious. Reaching for the phone, he checked the caller display before swiping at the screen. ‘This had better be good, Pete.’
Pete Cooper, a detective constable who had drawn the short straw to work over Christmas, sounded nervous. ‘Sorry to disturb you at this time of night, sir, but it might be best if you come out for this.’
Harlan blinked. When was the last time he’d been requested to attend anything other than a routine burglary, or a drunken domestic where the combatants had to be physically restrained from killing each other with the contents of the cutlery drawer?
‘You realise I’m not back on duty until Monday. Scanlon’s supposed to be holding the fort.’
‘Yes, sir. It was DI Scanlon who said to call you.’
It wasn’t like Scanlon to ask for another DI’s assistance, far less his own. Harlan was yesterday’s man; so marginalised these days he was in danger of slipping off the page altogether.
‘What’s so important that Scanlon needs me polluting his crime scene?’
For a few moments he thought Cooper wasn’t going to answer. He heard the DC take a deep breath. ‘We’ve got ourselves a dead girl in Brackenbrae. Hanging from a tree in the woods.’ Another pause. ‘Same tree as last time.’
For a long heartbeat Harlan’s universe slipped out of sync, the past overlapping with the present. Five years ago he’d taken an almost identical call on Christmas Eve. In his mind he saw a naked child, her thighs smeared with blood, dangling from a rope braided with green Christmas tinsel. Debbie Fletcher was nine years old when she was raped and strangled, then strung up like plucked game in a poacher’s larder. It had been a watershed case for him. The pressure of the investigation finishing his already rocky marriage and bringing his career trajectory to a crashing halt.
The sensation of layered time became so strong he wondered who he would see in bed beside him if he turned his head, Cara, or Steph, his embittered ex-wife.
‘Sir? You still there?’ Cooper had a note of concern in his voice.
Harlan breathed out slowly, the gravitational pull of the present dispelling the ghost of Christmas past. ‘I’ll be there,’ he said, and hung up.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark end of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of seven novels – Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, 1-2-3-4, Monochrome, Heart Swarm and Wasp Latitudes.
In between the books, Allan wrote extensively for BBC Radio Scotland, churning out hundreds of comedy sketches, in addition to being a regular contributor for the world famous ‘Herald Diary’.
He occasionally masquerades as a composer/musician, collaborating with crime writer Phil Rickman in a band called Lol Robinson with Hazey Jane II whose albums have sold on four different continents (Antarctica was a hard one to crack)
Allan lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland, but has never worn the kilt or eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. He also once spent three days as a stand-in guitarist for the Bay City Rollers, but he rarely talks much about that…
Social Media Links:
Twitter – @allanwatson12