Book of the Day: Once Upon a Haunted Moor

Once Upon A Haunted Moor

Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. It’s not life in the fast lane, but he takes it very seriously, and his first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he’s gutted – he’s a level-headed copper who doesn’t believe in such things, and he can’t help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl.

But Lee is hard to hate, no matter how Gideon tries. At first Lee’s insights into the case make no sense, but he seems to have a window straight into Gideon’s heart. Son of a Methodist minister, raised in a tiny Cornish village, Gideon has hidden his sexuality for years. It’s cost him one lover, and he can’t believe it when this green-eyed newcomer stirs up old feelings and starts to exert a powerful force of attraction.

Gideon and Lee begin to work together on the case. But there are malignant forces at work in the sleepy little village of Dark, and not only human ones – Gideon is starting to wonder, against all common sense, if there might be some truth in the terrifying legend of the Bodmin Beast after all. As a misty Halloween night consumes the moor, Gideon must race against time to save not only the lost child but the man who’s begun to restore his faith in his own heart.

Excerpt:

It was dark by the time they reached the house, and Gideon was beginning to regret his impulse of hospitality. It wasn’t that Tyack had said or done anything to annoy him on the way back – fact he’d sat silently, eyes fixed on the road ahead – but what was Gideon meant to do with him all night? He could hardly run him into Bodmin to see a film or sit cosily with him in the village’s one excuse for a restaurant. The house, when he pulled open the stiff old door, didn’t help any – simply exhaled at him its air of chilly neglect. He supposed he was ashamed: his home wasn’t fit for a visitor, and nor was he…

“What the bloody hell did this?”

Gideon stopped in the hall. Tyack was motionless in the doorway, one finger pressed to the paintwork. It had still been dark when Gideon had left that morning. Either because of that or because he hadn’t wanted to, he hadn’t seen the mark. It was a deep scratch. It ran from the lintel to within two feet of the ground. It gave Gideon the coldest, most miserable sensation he’d ever experienced, as if some vile fairy story he’d been told as a child had turned out to be true. He couldn’t bear to think about it. “Kids. Twigs. I don’t know.” He stamped off into the living room. “I’m sorry the place is so perishing cold. The stove’s awkward, and if I’m not around to – ”

“My one at home is like this. I’ll have a go at it.”

“Er… right. I’ll fix us a drink if you like. I’ll stick a pizza in the oven.”

“Ta.”

Gideon left him crouched in front of the stove. Halfway to the kitchen he remembered that he’d never called the Truro HQ to check Tyack’s credentials, and he quietly let himself into the study and unhooked the landline phone.

When he emerged, his visitor was sitting on the granite hearth, and the room was full of dancing firelight. “Wow. What did you do?”

“Some damp moss was blocking the flue. I got it down.” Tyack looked up at him mildly. The dog had taken up position on the far side of the stove, and between them they looked like a pair of guardian deities in a Roman temple. “I’m not here to step on your toes, Gideon. The Truro police just honestly thought it might be worth a shot to send me here. I’ve had a bit of luck in cases like this before.”

There was no way Tyack could have heard his phone conversation from here, or even from outside the thick study door. Gideon wanted to snarl at him.You’ve had damn-all luck so far, haven’t you, unless you count wasting three hours of police time up a godforsaken hill… But that was a mote in his neighbour’s eye, and the beam in his own was killing him. He made his way blindly to a hearthside chair and sat down. “I’ve been screwing this up. I’m just a village copper, Mr Tyack – pub brawls and lost sheep.

“It’s Lee. And – they’ve sent CID men out here, haven’t they? Search-and-rescue specialists. They haven’t found her either.”

Gideon propped his elbows on his knees. He wanted the comfort of this thought, but he couldn’t allow it to himself. “I’ve been good at my job until now. But I’ve started buggering up ordinary things. Paperwork, letting Ross Jones get away with his marijuana crop. I’ve… panicked, I suppose. What if this never ends? What if they never find her?”

Tyack’s hand closed on his shoulder. “Sometimes they aren’t found.”

“Christ. I don’t think I could bear that.” Gideon kept his head down. For Tyack – Lee, his mind easily corrected him, just as he’d substituted Isolde for Kye – for Lee to be touching him like this, he must be kneeling close. Right at Gideon’s feet. “Why am I telling you all this?”

“People do tell me things. Shall I get those drinks?”

“Okay. They’re in the …”

“Sideboard, second cupboard on the left. That’s not a psychic thing – you left the door open.”

“Oh, God.” Gideon tried to rub away the remembered feel of Lee’s grasp. “I hardly touch the stuff, except…”

“Except this last week or so. And that’s not a Gideon thing, is it?”

Gideon wanted to argue. Nobody but James had had any right to know what his things were, and James had declined the pleasure. But the fact was that he’d started to combat the long nights of Lorna Kemp’s absence with a tumbler or three of scotch. He watched while Lee took out a pair of shot glasses instead, and poured them a measure each. The drink looked civilised like that somehow, companionable and sufficient. Lee handed him his glass his silence and began to look around the room, as if giving Gideon time to compose himself. He stopped in front of a photograph. “These are the Methodist parents?”

“Grandparents, actually. We come from a long line. That’s my mum and dad in the picture to the left, the one with Dark Old Chapel in the background.

“This house feels like theirs, not yours.”

The photos were the room’s sole decor. Pastor Frayne hadn’t been a harsh man – he just hadn’t seen the use of earthly comforts. “It is. I had a flat in the village, but… my father got Alzheimer’s, and they’re both living in care.” Gideon knocked his scotch back. “My ma says it’s God’s will.”

“And do you think so too?”

Gideon hesitated. He was bright enough, he knew, but his circumstances hadn’t favoured independent thought. It had taken him a long, hard time to work some things out for himself, and he wasn’t finished. When he considered this, though, he found that he was certain. “No. I think it’s a miserable, pointless disease that needs to be cured.”

“So… between these godfearing parents of yours, and being part of a police force that’s two decades behind the rest of the country in its attitudes – ”

“Don’t.” Gideon cut him off sharply. “Look – for what it’s worth, you seem like a decent guy. But…”

“But you’re getting tired of having your brains picked, and you reckon it’s only fair that I tell you some stuff in return.”

Gideon repressed a smile at the irony: Lee had fished that thought up so neatly that it might as well be flapping and wet on the hearthrug. “Something like that, maybe.”

“Fair enough. What do you want to know?”

Do you have a boyfriend? Gideon clamped his mouth shut. What the hell was the matter with him? Lee had returned to sit by the fire. He’d wrapped his arms around his knees and his skin was glowing amber in the uncertain light. Clearly he spent at least as much time on the boats as in parlours reading fortunes, and Gideon had had a lonely untouched year of it, but still… “Does it always hurt?” he asked suddenly. “When you have a – a vision, or whatever you call them?”

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