A Dylan Scott Mystery
Barnes & Noble.com
Dylan Scott has problems. Dismissed in disgrace from the police force for assaulting a suspect, he has no job, his wife has thrown him out and—worse luck—his mother has moved in. So when Holly Champion begs him to investigate the disappearance of her mother thirteen years ago, he can't say no, even though it means taking up residence in the dreary Lancashire town of Dawson's Clough for the duration.
Although the local police still believe Anita Champion took off for a better life, Dylan's inquiries turn up plenty of potential suspects: the drug-dealing, muscle-bound bouncer at the club where Anita was last seen; the missing woman's four girlfriends, out for revenge; the local landowner with rumoured mob connections—the list goes on. But no one is telling Dylan all they know—and he soon finds that one sleepy Northern town can keep a lot of secrets.
“Dic￼khead!” Dylan yelled as the driver of a blue Ka changed lanes and almost took off his nearside wing.
A female driver—no surprise there—put up her hand by way of apology and tossed back long dark hair. If Dylan had his way, women would be banned from the bloody road until they could prove themselves less emotional and less hung up on life’s minutiae.
Bev was the same. She saw driving as a means of inspecting people’s curtains, or drapes as she’d taken to calling them. It never occurred to her to look where she was going. Added to that, she was too emotional to be allowed behind the wheel of a car.
She could be a real drama queen at times. A teacher, her subjects were English and drama, and she tended toward the theatrical.
“You’re nothing but a drunkard, Dylan Scott. A drunkard and a bloody loser!”
It had been a month, almost to the day, since she hurled those words at him, and he was still smarting. Still miffed, too. Damn it, if she must throw abuse at him, she could at least make it accurate abuse.
He was not a drunkard. He’d been a bit tipsy on the night in question, admittedly, but he was far from a drunkard.
The words pots and kettles sprang to mind and, if he hadn’t been the type to prefer a quiet life, he would have reminded her of the time she’d been out with her mates only to come home and pass out in the hedge by the front door. Or the night they’d celebrated their wedding anniversary and she’d thrown up in the back of that taxi.
During almost fourteen years of marriage, she’d been drunk far more often than he had.
He hated it when she had one of her moods on her, and this was her worst yet. She’d come round, she always did, but meanwhile, life was hell.
Just when they should have been decorating the house for Christmas, she’d thrown him out. Efficient to the core, she’d even found him alternative accommodation. He was now the penniless tenant of the smallest flat in the land.
“It’s got two bedrooms,” she’d said, “so Luke can come and stay.”
“That’s a bedroom? I thought it was where I was supposed to keep the Hoover.”
“You’re going to get a Hoover?” She’d laughed at that, the sarcastic, angry laugh he loathed. “My, wonders will never cease. And do you know what a Hoover does exactly?”
“Oh, very droll.”
He’d talked, cajoled, begged and pleaded, but he’d still spent Christmas and the New Year in the smallest flat in the land...
He felt as if he’d been sitting in his car for days rather than hours and, according to his sat nav, he still had forty miles to drive. The strong wind was increasing, buffeting his car.
The countryside was growing more picturesque and, if he’d been in the mood to enjoy it, it might have been a pleasant journey. He wasn’t in the mood to enjoy anything. He wanted to be at home, his own home. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Devon.
If Bev hadn’t thrown him out, he wouldn’t be. But she had. Ergo, he needed money. With the marital home and the smallest flat in the land to pay for, he needed to work.
The need for cash wasn’t his only reason for visiting Devon, however. On Thursday evening, he’d answered a ring at his door to find that his worst nightmare had become reality. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, he’d seen his mother, suitcases at her feet, standing on his doorstep.
“Beverley’s thrown you out,” she’d said, as if this might be news to him, “so you’ll need me now.”
“Mum, I’m fine. Really, I can—”
“Nonsense. Take my cases through, Dylan. Beverley said you had a spare room going begging.”
“Of course it’s not going begging. It’s full of junk— stuff I haven’t unpacked yet.” He took a breath. “Really, Mum, I’m fine. And you’ll be very uncomfortable here. It’s too—small. Too—awful.”
“Nonsense. I’ve stayed in worse than this. Remember when we were out in Istanbul?”
Dylan hadn’t been born at the time so he couldn’t be expected to remember. That hadn’t stopped her going on—and on—about the year she’d spent in Istanbul with a bunch of her hippy friends...
As he slowed for a sharp bend, Dylan wondered if life could get any worse. He was thirty-eight years old, he had no job and little hope of getting one, his wife had thrown him out, his mother had moved in, and he’d had to hunt through a pile of laundry currently lying in front of his as- yet-unused washing machine for the shirt he was wearing.
Ever the optimist, though, at least he had escaped his mother for a couple of days and, at two hundred pounds a day plus expenses, looking into the disappearance of Holly Champion’s mother would pay rents, mortgages and every other damn thing for a few weeks.
In fact, given that Holly Champion had literally begged him to help her, insisted she wanted no one else, there was nothing to stop him charging two hundred and fifty a day plus expenses.
Better still, perhaps they could do a swap. Dylan would kill for a mother who did a thirteen-year vanishing act.
You’ll need me now.
What nonsense was that? She wouldn’t do anything useful. She had cleaned that spare bedroom meticulously, but the rest of the flat had been deemed Dylan’s responsibility. As yet, she hadn’t so much as made him a sandwich. Feminism had a lot to answer for.
The roads were deserted, and narrower, as he neared the coast. According to his sat nav, he was less than a mile from Verdun House now.
“Destination in two hundred yards,” the computerised voice said.
“What? You have to be kidding.”
There was nothing visible. Tall hedges sided a narrow road that was little more than a rutted track.
“Destination,” the sat nav announced.
“Bollocks!” He scowled at the instrument. “And now I’m talking to a bloody computer!”
Dylan stopped the car. On his left, a tall hedge shielded the view. On his right was a small lane and a sign informing people that space was available on Blue Skies Caravan Park.
Perhaps he would be able to find someone who could give him directions for Verdun House.
He drove into the site and parked outside a mobile home that showed signs of life. At least, there were fresh flowers in the window. He got out of his car, strode up to the door, lifted his hand to knock and then spotted the small sign next to the step. Verdun House.
Verdun House, home of Holly Champion, was a blasted mobile home.
What in hell’s name was wrong with people? It wasn’t a house. It was barely a home. It was a caravan that was too idle to move.