This book was previously published as FAT CHANCE
Ella Fitzwilliam’s world is about to spiral out of control.
She’s not cut out to be a private investigator. With little or no aptitude for the job, she’s been sent undercover to expose the hidden lives of two men who meet nearly every week at Buxham’s – a private members’ club where portions are large and secrets are held in strictest confidence.
One of those men is Harry Drysdale, a defence barrister.The other is Marcus Carver, an eminent surgeon with a tarnished past and much to lose.
Ella knows he has unhealthy appetites, she’s sure he’s feeding his perverted habits and putting his female patients at risk but she has to prove it.
When Harry Drysdale goes missing, Konrad Neale TV journalist tries to reveal the truth behind the lies, but some of the secrets start to reveal themselves… and they are big.
Chapter 6 Extract.
‘We’ve found him,’ Val croaked as she threw paperwork across the desk for Ella to check. The pokey office was a place lingered in for as short a time as possible. It was far more helpful for anyone’s future health to meet elsewhere because Val smoked like a chimney and cared little for Ella’s irritation and complaints about the legal requirements for a smoke free workplace. ‘It’s my office. I’ll do what I bleedin’-well like,’ she reminded her whenever the subject of clean air arose.
‘Who’ve we found? The main man?’
‘No, the other one. The posh nob. Old-fashioned tracking and sleuthing was required. I asked Mal to keep him under close tabs and he’s identified a particular place our mark regularly frequents. This man’s private life isn’t newsworthy and I doubt it will bother him too much if it was disclosed to the general public but his little peccadillo is a shared interest with—’
‘But, Val,’ Ella interrupted, ‘if we keep spending time on this, you’ll go bankrupt unless your mystery client is loaded.’
After taking a long drag and blowing air thoughtfully away from Ella’s face, Val stubbed out her cigarette. ‘Ideally I want both of them to pay for what they’ve done, but most of all I want to be sure he’s not still screwing up young peoples’ lives. He’s a fucking pervert and I know that lawyer of his is protecting him.’
‘You didn’t tell Mal what this is all about, did you?’
‘What do you take me for? Some fucking moron? Of course I didn’t. He thinks it’s the usual unfaithful lover scenario. The less he knows, the better.’
‘But if Malik’s done all that surveillance then where do I come in?’ Ella asked.
Malik was a freelancer. He covered many jobs for Val where a male was required, or where technological know-how had to be employed. He was good at that. Depending on circumstances, and when it suited, he could become too British to be Asian or too Asian to be British. In the main he tried hard to be both – Asian man with white gangster accent and a powerful love of fast cars and gambling. A proper trifle of cultures.
With his brothers and a number of cousins, Malik Khan also had a share in the running of a luxury sports car hire company, a Royal Enfield dealership, and he was the man the wider family relied on for their cyber security needs. Malik was an Asian fly-boy who made judicious use of any of the top of the range high performance cars that were not out to hire elsewhere and it was all for show.
For several years in his early twenties, he and Val had worked the door of Frenzy, which wasn’t Crewsthorpe’s only nightclub but it was the one most renown for trouble. Val and Mal, the deadly duo were unforgiving in their response to any misbehaviour and, not needing to intervene, the police turned a blind eye to their effective but brutal methods; as they did with all the bouncers at Frenzy. Val and Mal, although an unusual pairing, had remained close friends.
‘We have a timescale to keep to and the next move requires your particular skills,’ Val said.
‘A deadline?’ Ella asked, keen to hear where her new career was taking her next. Val fiddled with her pen and seemed to be searching for the right words. Hesitantly she said, ‘Ella, I don’t have the attributes for the next part of the case. You’ll have to be the ears and the eyes on these two men from the inside.’
‘For God’s sake, Val. You don’t need to sound like Sam Spade. Where am I going and why?’
Val wasn’t prone to diplomacy but, for once, she chose with care how she broke the news to Ella about her next assignment. ‘I’m too thin,’ she said hoarsely.
‘That’s hardly my fault,’ Ella replied. ‘If you cut back on the fags and ate more food then you’d put on weight. The solution is simple.’ She smiled at her employer, not knowing why she had begun her explanation with that phrase. Val sprang to her feet. ‘Come on, it’s easier if I show you. Grab your coat.’
They drove for nearly an hour before heading off the motorway and into the town of Lensham, not twenty minutes away from where Ella had spent the last twelve weeks sitting naked in an evening art class each Tuesday.
‘The station has direct fast trains to London. That’s what makes it so convenient for our man. He stays overnight whenever he can, usually on a Wednesday. He travels alone, but Mal says he meets a male friend at the station and they either hop into a cab or walk together until they reach their destination. Mal has taken a couple of photos and I’m damned sure it’s who we think it is, but you know what he looks like, beyond any doubt.’
‘His face is firmly and regrettably etched in my mind, as well you know. Where’s the hotel?’
Val parked up in the station car park. ‘Twenty minutes free parking gives us enough time. Where they stay is within walking distance, come on you need the exercise.’
‘Very funny…’ Ella screwed up her eyes.
Contrasting in size and style, the two ladies walked the damp November streets where the smell of late autumn was in the air. Tree-lined avenues branched off a busy main road and from one of these, between houses, a narrow single-track roadway led to a handsome regency-style residence. Three stories high, with sash windows, and fronted by black cast-iron railings, it had classic appeal. To the left of an imposing lacquered front door was a sign, rather like a plaque, the word “Buxham’s” was painted in silver calligraphy on a black gloss board, and “For the larger life …” was written beneath, as if from a quote. No phone number, no email, no website address.
Val released a series of rasping claggy coughs, before being able to speak again. ‘It’s not on Trip-advisor nor Google ads but they do have a restaurant and bar licence and are fully regulated as a premises with accommodation,’ she informed Ella as they strolled past, nonchalantly. ‘It is in fact a club, a private members’ club.’
Withholding a vital piece of information, Val insisted that, as they walked by, they carefully scout what they could of the perimeter, which was nigh on impossible. An enormous solid oak sliding gate remained closed, preventing a view into the private car park. Either side of the main house were curved high walls, stately in their magnificence. The short roadway was wide enough for one vehicle to enter from the avenue but opened up to a sweeping turning circle in front of Buxham’s main entrance; one-way in or out for any vehicle. For members arriving on foot, the main entrance or a discreet plain door through the high wall with a touchpad entry system were the two choices.
‘Act as if we’re lost.’ Val pulled a pamphlet, advertising a local tattoo artist, from the inside pocket of her leather biker jacket, stopping to consult it. ‘We can’t hang around and there’s nowhere to observe from without it being blatant what we’re up to.’
She pointed back out the way they had come and they meandered to the avenue before speaking again.
‘I take it you have a plan for me to become a member.’
The harsh laughter from Val answered that question. ‘Very amusing.’ She sighed. ‘Look, Ella, I know you’re not experienced enough for this but we’ve got no choice. I registered you with an agency that has been asked to send suitable candidates for interview at Buxham’s. Here’s your CV.’
Alison Morgan: A former mental health nurse, country bumpkin at heart, married to a hairy biker, fascinated by words, loves live music and she has an innate ability to make people smile and laugh.
Her crime thrillers have a strong cast of characters helping to define the style and pace of each story inspired by her life and career as a Psychiatric Nurse, and her fascination with the extremes of human behaviour.
AB Morgan is the critically acclaimed author of A Justifiable Madness, Divine Poison, The Camera Lies and Stench.
Her latest psychological suspense has again been applauded for being refreshingly different within its genre.
“I thought that the plot was superb, I loved the writing style and the characters were excellent. Ella is a fantastic character! This is a crime read with a difference, hands down, her best yet. Very highly recommended.” Donna Maguire – Donna’s Book Blog
Amazon A B Morgan Author page: http://geni.us/o6nx8h
LinkedIn: Ali Morgan