Authors: Neil Richards
“Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series” is a series made up of self-contained stories. A new episode is released each month. The series is published in English as well as in German, and is only available in e-book form.
(US-based) is the author of a number of successful novels, including
Beneath Still Waters
(1989), which was adapted by Lionsgate as a major motion picture. He has written for The Disney Channel, BBC, SyFy and has also designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed
The 7th Guest
Pirates of the Caribbean
has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including
The Da Vinci Code
, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.
His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together.
is their first crime fiction as co-writers.
is a former NYPD homicide detective who lost his wife a year ago. Being retired, all he wants is peace and quiet. Which is what he hopes to find in the quiet town of Cherringham, UK. Living on a canal boat, he enjoys his solitude. But soon enough he discovers that something is missing — the challenge of solving crimes. Surprisingly, Cherringham can help him with that.
is a web designer who was living in London with her husband and two kids. Two years ago, he ran off with his sexy American boss, and Sarah’s world fell apart. With her children she moved back to her home town, laid-back Cherringham. But the small town atmosphere is killing her all over again — nothing ever happens. At least, that’s what she thinks until Jack enters her life and changes it for good or worse …
A COSY CRIME SERIES
Thick as Thieves
Digital original edition
Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG
Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany
Written by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards
Edited by Victoria Pepe
Project management: Sarah Pelekies
Cover illustrations: © shutterstock: Buslik | xpixel | Andrew Rowland | Ana Gram
Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer
E-book production: Urban
Jerry Pratt gunned the engine of the old Land Rover and gripped the steering wheel hard as the wheels struggled against the steep muddy slope of Winsham Hill.
“Come on, you beauty!” he shouted as the engine raced and the old wreck slipped and slewed dangerously to one side.
The vehicle lurched forward, tyres at last clawing into the dirt of the old farm track as Jerry regained control.
“Jeez, I thought you’d lost it,” said Baz, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to him, his hands gripped tightly on the old metal dashboard.
Jerry looked at his old mate and punched him on the arm, laughing.
“Ha! You was well frit Baz, you fat bastard. Mind you don’t wet yourself on my front seat!”
He swung the Land Rover round on the gravel strip in front of the long copse of trees which edged the hill, then stopped and turned off the engine.
“Don’t know why you don’t just use the track off the cricket pitch like any normal bloke,” said Baz grumpily.
“Coz I ain’t normal, now am I?”
“Too bloody right, you ain’t.”
Jerry laughed again, pulled out his cigarettes and offered one to Baz, who shook his head.
“Given up, haven’t I?” he said glumly. “Abby doesn’t like it. What with the baby here.”
Jerry rolled his eyes.
“You want to watch it, mate. You’re well under her thumb.”
“Yeah well, it’ll happen to you one day, Jerry. You just wait.”
“No chance. I’m a free spirit me!”
Yep, that’s me. Free as a bird,
Poor as a friggin’ peasant too.
He lit a cigarette, grabbed his jacket and climbed out of the Land Rover, looking around as he did. From up here they said you could see five counties — though he never believed it. Just crap made up by the tourist authority, he thought — and anyway so what? What was the point of seeing five counties? They all looked the same. Just fields.
Still — he had to admit. This time of day, it was a nice enough view. Maybe he should make a habit of getting up before eleven …
He turned back to look at the tree line.
Behind the copse (which he knew was stuffed full of nice plump pheasants at the right time of year) was Cherringham cricket pitch. And behind that was Cherringham itself.
Baz was right — that
the best way to get onto Winsham Hill. But it wasn’t any fun. And also it was a bit … public for Jerry’s liking. Didn’t matter what you did round Cherringham, always some busybody ready to stick a nose in, complain, find fault.
So he preferred the back way, the quiet way, the less
way round the village.
Anyway — where was a young, red-blooded, good-looking bloke like him supposed to find his thrills these days? Certainly not up at the chicken factory turning roosters inside out for six quid an hour.
One day he’d be rich and famous and he’d build a big mansion up here looking out over the five stupid counties and he’d sit on the deck at the back smoking dope and having beers with his mates and the people of Cherringham could stuff it.
“I charged the batteries Jerry, because I knew you’d forget,” said Baz from the back of the Land Rover, interrupting Jerry’s dreams of a golden future.
“And I didn’t bother charging them my old mucker, because I knew you would do just that,” said Jerry.
Baz held open the back door of the vehicle and offered up the two metal detectors.
“Choose your weapon,” he said, climbing out.
Jerry considered. The Mark IV was heavier — but it gave off less background noise. The Expro-Navigator was lighter, but fiddly.
“Give us the Expro, Baz, got a dodgy shoulder this morning,” he said.
“Lifting too many pints I s’pose,” said Baz. “All right for some.”
Baz handed it over and Jerry rested it on one side while he reached in for his boots. He watched as Baz picked up a spade and the other detector and went over to the crest of the hill and stood, hands on hips, staring out across the valley.
“What shall we do — begin at the bottom and work our way up?”
Boots on, Jerry grabbed his equipment, locked up the Land Rover and joined him.
“Nah, we’ll start about halfway, I reckon, then work down.”
The top of Winsham Hill was rough meadow — and to one side was the track they’d driven up from the valley. Halfway down, the gradient softened and the land was split into fields of differing crops that went all the way down to the Avon Brooke — a meandering stream that curved around Cherringham and fed into the Thames.
“You see Low Copse Farm?” said Jerry, pointing down into the valley beyond the stream.
Baz nodded: “Butterworth’s place, yeah?”
“That’s the one. He reckons this strip of land has been farmed for a couple of thousand years.”
“So there might have been old buildings down there?”
“Correct. And tracks, roads. Places where people sit. Have a nap. Drop stuff. Lose stuff. Bury stuff. Hide stuff.”
“Treasure!” said Baz.
“Yeah, well, maybe,” said Jerry. “If we’re lucky.”
“You haven’t been lucky yet, though have you?”
“No Baz, I haven’t. Which is exactly why you’re here. You’re going to bring me luck, old son.”
“And do half the bloody work for you too,” said Baz.
Jerry slapped him on the shoulder. Baz was born grumpy and needed constant encouragement, he thought.
“Well, yes. This is true. But in return — you will get half the bloody treasure when we find it.”
we find it,” said Baz. “And even then we have to split it with Butterworth.”
“It’s his farm, Baz. His land.”
“Don’t seem fair to me — he just sits at home having his tea and we do all the work.”
“Well them’s the rules.”
“Hmm, if you say so,” said Baz. “But this is the third Saturday I been out helping you and I’m getting a bit fed up to be honest.”
“Three Saturdays and no treasure yet? What is the world coming to?”
“No need to take the piss Jerry, I’m just saying, that’s all.”
“I know mate,” said Jerry, softening. “So let’s get started shall we? Sooner we start detecting, sooner we get lucky.”
And so Jerry hoisted his spade onto his shoulder, lifted his detector and set off down the hill to find his fortune.
Baz wiped the sweat out of his eyes and straightened up.
Gawd, my back hurts,
He checked his watch. Five o’clock. Nearly seven hours they’d been working this field. Back and forth they’d gone across the mud, swinging their detectors slowly from side to side, listening out for the tell-tale ping of a find.
They’d started off walking side by side but then Jerry said they should split up and work different sections of the field. Somehow that was supposed to increase their chances, though Baz wasn’t quite sure why.
The furrows went up and down the slope and Jerry’s logic was that they should go from one side to the other, working against the furrows. He said they’d been lucky it was just ploughed. It was late for Butterworth to be planting maize, but with all the rain they’d had he’d had to wait till the last minute.