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Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Black Candle Killings by Andrew Segal - Book Tour + Giveaway


Conspiracy Series, Book 3

Detective Thriller

Date Published: March 1st 2021

Publisher: Happy London Press



A church going district of North London and a neighbourhood where friendly residents know each other. But when a brutally murdered woman is found next to a burned-out black candle, a strange mark etched deep into her back, the locals became afraid.

Her old boss, a Chief Superintendent in the Met, calls for PI, Tammy Pierre’s assistance. He’s aware of her Caribbean links, and knowledge of Obiah, a voodoo curse found in Trinidad, and used, some claim, to commit bizarre murders. So, is it voodoo? Or just superstition?

A trip to the West Indies reveals some disturbing facts, new evidence of child abuse and murders going undetected for over twenty years.

Returning to London, her situation becomes dangerous – is it all more than Tammy had bargained for?


Excerpt
Prologue

Yuh gonna die!

 “Hmm? Watch you say, lady? Hear me now, hear me. Don’t y’all cry. You muss up yuh face. Me ain’t gonna hurt you none. Gonna be quick an’ easy. All be over soon, soon. You understan’? De Lord, he am waitin’ for yuh.”

 Lillian Persaud hadn’t had sex with Tom for over a month. As she made for the office at a brisk trot, she smiled to herself. Gorgeous fresh morning. Gentle breeze. A few spots of rain tapping at her brolly. Some wispy grey cloud. Might warm up later, though. Bound to really, she thought with her usual optimism.

Out of the corner of her eye she spotted something moving. A shadow; perhaps her own? Couldn’t place it. Coming from behind a parked car? A moment of unease, but not one to break the glorious mood she was in.

The day ahead, filled with appointments, staff meetings and then, this weather forecast had said it would be a mixed day, so at least there’d be some sun to look forward to.

Business was getting busier by the week in her expanding company, Persaud IT Ltd. A hectic day ahead of her. Evening to think about.

Plans for sex, she mused. Lots of it. Asap. On the agenda. And about time too. She smiled again at the prospect. Some soft music; modern jazz. The contemplative tones of Miles Davis’s trumpet. Chic Corea on piano. Tom’s favourite record, Peggy Lee singing, ‘Some Cats Know’, and she added mentally the following refrain, ‘How to go real slow’. Tom knew how to go real slow. Lovely man. What a wedding night they’d had. Not a real wedding, but an exchanging of vows and commitment before an Unofficial Officiant in a Humanist service. They both had their own reasons for preferring to avoid a religious ceremony. A couple of dozen close family and friends in a tiny hotel off the beaten track, near to Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Cotswolds.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time they’d made love, but Tom made it feel that way. It was as if he’d saved something special for just that evening. Up till then, every night with him had been special. But, wow! she thought. Was that night extra special, or was it not?

Not too many nights like it since the baby. Gracie was a demanding tot, and now an even more demanding little girl. Still, she thought, their imp seemed to have got over her current bout of sleeplessness.

Someone on the other side of the street, emerging from behind a tree this time, looking at her. Looking at her? A phantom silhouette. Following her. Dark tracksuit and trainers. Hoodie obscuring the face. Soundless steps. Were they smiling? She couldn’t see.

Lillian frowned for a moment. No-one else around. Early morning. A few parked vehicles. An unexpected feeling of loneliness. Maybe they were scowling? She hurried on, getting nervous now, her heels clicking on the pavement, echoing in her ears.

Like being on the ghost train in a fairground. Never sure what was going to jump out at you. Nothing was going to attack her out here in the street. This was Bloomsbury where bad things didn’t happen. She’d soon be at the office. Door locked behind her. Safe. Then, hot coffee. The world waking up. Staff arriving shortly.

Tom said she was a worrier. “Darling,” he’d told her one day, “if you didn’t have something to worry about, it’d almost certainly worry you.” He was right of course. But worriers get things done, she’d protested. And, looking around, she found her imagined stalker had vanished. A heaved sigh of relief.

Baby Grace had been fractious and her sleepless nights had impacted Lillian and Tom. But there’d been six undisturbed nights when the parents had caught up with some desperately needed shut-eye, and now Lillian was beaming to herself as she mentally planned the evening in.

 “Look! Look! See? It say in here in de Bible, Deuteronomy 23, verse 2, dat no-one born of a forbidden union may enter de kingdom of de Lord. Even to de ten generation, none of his descendants may enter de assembly of de Lord. Yuh gonna have to pay, lady.”

 Tom loved cooking, but he also liked to eat out. He’d probably booked somewhere for them already. It was their anniversary, that of the first time they’d met. But tonight was going to be all Lillian’s treat. And for a change there’d be no meat. Tom could eat lamb and beef for England, but he’d been told by his doctor to cut down as his cholesterol levels were too high. So tonight, would be fish. Cod, baked in fish stock, with chopped onions and tomato, and a handful of black olives to finish it off. Steamed new potatoes in their skins, dripping in butter, well, maybe not exactly dripping. A mixed salad, with her own dressing. A bottle of Pino Grigio. And for dessert, a blueberry pavlova coupled with vanilla ice cream by Marshfield Farm, an English make on a par with the best of Italian. Divine thoughts.

Tom hadn’t seen the white thong yet. The one with the split crotch. The matching, barely there, white bra. The contrast with her ebony complexion would be stark. Heavens! she thought, I’ll be stark, or as good as. She’d kept them for an occasion like she was going to make tonight’s. Her legs went slightly wobbly at the thought. However would she make it through the day? she wondered.

The first thing she noticed upon opening up the office was that the alarm hadn’t been set the night before. She frowned. Must have a word with the cleaners later today. But, just the same, she thought, worrying.

They’d kept all the original features of the beautiful Georgian building’s interior, whilst managing to lay out desks with smart glass dividers to allow, if not privacy, at least the chance to concentrate on work without the immediate intrusion of others in the room overwhelming you.

There was a separate boardroom for client meetings, and it was to this she presently repaired. She needed to spread out paperwork in a manner more convenient than might be obtained, no matter how many screens she chose to work with. For all her IT skills, sometimes it was the old tried and tested routines that worked best.

Lillian was happy. Happier than she’d ever been in her life. After a ghastly childhood, from which she’d made a timely escape, things were coming together more satisfyingly than she had ever dared to hope.

 “Dey all jagabat womans tink dey can fool me. Dey run away from me, but me have catch yuh. Me have seen you, lady, flahntin’ y’all an’ yer babby. Lady, de chile am barn of a forbidden union. Who you tink you is? Me ain’t no dotish man. No mamaguy. Me am gonna bring y’all back to God.” 

And yet, that shadow again, from the corner of her eye. And, here? In the office? Her mind playing tricks? Had to be. But why, all of a sudden? She wasn’t normally given to random fears. She’d be seeing ghosts next. Shaking her head resolutely, she told herself not to be stupid.

Then the light pad of a muffled tread, a sharp pinprick in the back of her neck, the warmth of a thin stream of blood, her blood, running down her spine and a cultured voice warning her not to look round.

She felt as though she were being crushed with fear. She couldn’t breathe properly. Her blood was freezing in her veins, as she shuddered, uncontrollably. She could see the papers spread around the boardroom table, but made no connection with them. It was as though she were marooned in a foreign country, where she could neither understand nor make herself understood.

She knew she mustn’t panic, mustn’t scream, because the shadow would want her to scream, would need her to scream in order to exercise power over her. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply to try to calm her nerves. The voice was educated, could be spoken to. She might use reason. This was clearly a case of mistaken identity which she could quickly establish.

Then the voice changed. The tone dropped by a couple of octaves and to her consternation, the accent was now clearly patois.

Lillian heard a match flare, smelled burning tallow as smoke played around her head. She tried to think who it could possibly be. Racked her brains, uselessly. Didn’t know who it was. No idea in the world. But they clearly knew all about her.

  “De candle am burnin’ dong. It have you name on de side, Lillian.

“When it reach de bottom yuh gonna die.

“Hmm? Ah! Now you screamin’, Lillian? Dat’s good. Show y’all repentin’. Keep screamin’ now, Lillian, keep screamin’. Ain’t no-one to hear you.

“Praise de Lord.”

 


About the Author

Having never written a dramatic word in my life some thirty years ago, an idea for a short story popped into my head. With the encouragement of my wife and daughter I wrote a tale about a timid and ineffectual man and his pet cat, called Cat and Mouse. Wife and daughter approved so I produced more stories and then joined a writers’ group who also liked what I wrote.

Sir George Everest said, they climbed that mountain, ‘Because it is there.’ The same might be said of writing. Why do we write? because of the idea, the notion, the thought. ‘Because it is there,’ and the irresistible urge to put it down in print.

My inspirations have come from real people, events or situations that have presented themselves. Titles like, I am a Contract Killer, Beads of Blood, Death Zone, License to Kill, are all based on my own lifetime experiences, questions asked, incidents occurring. So far, nobody has been murdered on my watch. But the notion gave rise to the impetus to write my first murder mystery, The Lyme Regis Murders. Could I make the jump after years of writing macabre short stories to a full-length drama? That familiar beating in the gut, said, ‘Yes, try it. Give it a go.’

And so to that cosy coastal town where nothing untoward ever happens. Or perhaps it does. The author seeks to shatter notions, change people’s perceptions, spoil long held views. That was my intention in entering into the world of crime thrillers. I’ve found that ‘nice’ people are not always what they seem. The helpless can be transformed into the most dangerous, the most dangerous become the most harmless. It’s all up to the writer and what they’re hoping to achieve. For me, so far, there have been several children’s books, one collection of short stories, with three more planned and three novels completed, plus a fourth in the mixer.

Whilst a short story might be written with a flurry of adrenalin in the space of a few hours, a book will need more than just a flash of creativity. It will need, perseverance, discipline and dogged determination. But then, isn’t that what is required of every ambition?


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