Sometimes murder is the only way to get even…
Four friends with dark secrets. One killer out for revenge.
DI Frank Farrell and DS McLeod are tasked with investigating the brutal murder of a defence solicitor’s wife in Dumfries.
It’s been over a year since they left the town after an investigation robbed them of a dear friend. But now they’re back and must find a way to move on.
When the son of another defence solicitor is murdered, a strange tattoo etched on his body, the case takes them into darker, more disturbing territory.
It leads them back into the past – to a horrific fire in a cottage that took a woman’s life, to four friends harbouring dark secrets – and finally to a killer waiting patiently for revenge.
I am delighted to be able to help kick off the blog tour for Avenge the Dead, the latest in Jackie Baldwin’s DI Frank Farrell series of police procedurals.
In this extract, taken from the start of the book, you’ll get just a hint of the thrillingly dark events to come…
15th May 2005
Colette flopped back on the pillows, the enormity of what she had just done creeping in around the edges of her intoxication. She could hear them laughing and joking, stumbling around the tiny cottage on drunken legs, as they gathered up their stuff before making their way back to the guest house. There was a light tap on the door.
‘Come in!’ she yelled, pulling up a sheet to cover herself.
He stood framed in the doorway, looking at her with a concerned and slightly worried expression.
‘Are you sure you’re OK? I can stay if you want, keep you company?’
Her expression softened. As the effects of the alcohol started to wear off she suddenly felt a rush of blood to her head. What on earth had she been thinking? How would she face them all in court tomorrow? Her breath caught in her throat. She needed to be on her own. She heard his name being called. If she didn’t get rid of him the others would come clattering in and that was the last thing she wanted.
‘Honestly, I’m fine. Best if you head back with the others. I need to get some sleep. We’ve got court in the morning.’
‘If you’re sure?’
He crossed the room on unsteady legs and leaned over to peck her cheek, swaying from side to side.
‘You’d better hurry,’ she said with a weak smile. ‘They’ll not wait for long.’
The sound of slurred voices gradually receded down the country lane leaving her alone with her thoughts. Trying to pre-empt her inevitable hangover she padded down to the kitchen, knocked back some paracetamol and filled a pint glass with water. Now that the effects of the alcohol and ecstasy were wearing off her teeth began to chatter. Fortunately, the log fire lit without protest. She went back up for the duvet from her bed and dragged it down to the couch, huddling beneath it for warmth.
It had been a long boring two weeks in Jedburgh with each of them acting for one accused from a drunken brawl that had resulted in multiple charges. The evidence had been so convoluted that the sheriff had decided to rule on it the next morning.
Denied the freedom they had hoped for and with the trial effectively finished they had all decided to blow off steam. She had joined in with gusto taking them all by surprise, but already the night’s events were starting to disperse from her memory like wisps of smoke. She had been quite the free spirit before she moved to Dumfries and took up with Peter Swift, the fiscal depute. Realizing how conventional he was she had succeeded in subduing her wilder impulses. Until now. What if they talked and word got back to him? She shuddered. Too late for regrets. It was done. She’d been feeling more and more stifled by the relationship anyway. Maybe it was time to draw a line under it.
The doorbell rang. She rolled her eyes. What now? Making her way to the door she flung it wide expecting to see her friends.
Her eyes widened in horror as she was grabbed by the throat and pushed back into the house by the masked intruder. Terrified, she realized that he was holding a hunting knife. The tip pressed into her neck and she could feel the heat of it as it pierced her skin. Still, he said nothing.
The knife pressed deeper. She felt an itch as the warm blood trickled down her neck. Adrenalin flooded her system as she weighed her options. He’d backed her into the lounge, still at knifepoint. His silence was, if anything, more unnerving than the knife pressed to her throat. He backed her up to the couch which was piled high with blankets and throws.
Suddenly, the mound shifted.
‘Colette?’ a voice slurred. ‘What’s going on?’ The blankets slid off to reveal one of her friends, still drunk and with an expression of confusion and burgeoning fear on his face. He lurched to his feet.
Colette sagged in relief. Thank God, everything would be all right now. There were two of them.
‘Phone!’ hissed the man. ‘Or I’ll slit her throat and then yours. Leave now and keep your mouth shut or die here.’
Colette saw her friend frown, swaying from side to side.
She held her breath. All he had to do was lunge at her attacker, dial 999, anything! What was he waiting for? No! What was he doing?
Hot tears wet her cheeks as she watched him throw down his phone.
‘Tell anyone and I’ll hunt you down and kill you,’ her attacker snarled.
Unable to look her in the eye, the man she had called a friend ran past her. She heard the door slam.
Maybe he’s gone to get help? she thought, her mind reeling at his betrayal. But Jedburgh was two miles away.
It was down to her now. With a surge of rage she twisted and kneed her attacker in the groin. His grip loosened for a second, but then he roughly threw her on to the couch, pinning her down. All she could see were his pitiless blue eyes boring into her. Screaming obscenities, she clawed at the rough wool balaclava, determined to see his face. His fist connected with the side of her head, but she managed to pull the balaclava half off. She froze in shock.
‘You stupid bitch,’ he snarled. ‘Now, you have to die.’ The next punch he landed knocked her unconscious.
She awoke confused and disoriented. All around her flames leapt and the acrid smell of smoke burned her lungs. The house was on fire! She had to get out! Throwing off the already smouldering duvet she crawled to the front door. The way to the kitchen was blocked by the advancing flames. As she stood up and fumbled with the handle she realized to her horror it was locked and there was no sign of the keys. She ran to the window and swung a nearby vase at it. The vase broke but the window didn’t.
She knew then that she was doomed to die here in this fiery coffin. She remained at the window, her hands outstretched, peering into the night, not wanting to observe the march of the fire as it started to crawl up her body. Hope flared. There was someone out there. She could see a shadowy form silhouetted against the moonlight. She thumped her fist against the glass and screamed for help. Her friend must have come back. He could save her! He could break down the door, get her out. She beat harder, her hand aching, the heat almost unbearable now. What was wrong with him? Why wasn’t he moving? Could it be her attacker? She banged furiously, screaming in agony and terror as the flames curled up her body, releasing the meaty aroma of charred flesh.
The shadowy shape melted silently back into the trees.
The cottage continued to burn.
Avenge the Dead by Jackie Baldwin is published by One More Chapter and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers, including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing this extract, as well as to Emma Welton from Damppebbles Blog Tours for organising and inviting me onto this tour. The tour continues until 12 March 2020 so do check out the other stops for more content and reviews!