Crime Editor, Col, first met talented new writer, Phil Martin at a Mandasue Heller book launch in 2011, at Waterstones in Manchester city centre. Phil's enthusiasm about writing was infectious, as he proudly clutched a fledgling manuscript. We chewed the fat about our hopes and aspirations, and have kept in touch ever since. The manuscript he held was Child Number 3. Read his story below and you, too, will realise why he's so enthusiastic...
The Long Kiss Goodbye
Even through the haze of her sleeping pill, Amy Walker knew exactly why the police had come calling.
She kicked off her tangled duvet and sighed heavily as the all-consuming nightmare engulfed her again. The last few weeks had savaged her life; the holiday had done nothing to refresh her. If anything it had just cast further doubt on every aspect of her life.
“Amy, you need to get down here, it’s the police,” Joanna shouted again.
Amy glanced in the mirror, not to admire her holiday tan or run a brush through her tangled, dark hair, but to look at the lesion on her bottom lip. It stared back, throbbing in time with her heartbeat.
She knew it was about her test results. Her GP had said they’d investigate. It looked for all the world like a cold sore, yet Amy had never had one in her whole life.
Grabbing her dressing gown as her only necessity, she flung open her bedroom door.
“Amy, it’s the fucking police.” Joanna stood startled blocking her way.
“I know Jo, I heard you.” Amy prayed it had nothing to do with Morocco, but deep down she knew. The man’s death had nothing to do with her though. The police had said it was a freak accident when they’d cleared her to come home.
Amy strode past Joanna to see two plain clothed officers waiting at the bottom of the stairs with her other bewildered housemate, Carolyn.
“Miss Walker,” the male officer greeted as Amy walked down the stairs. “My name’s DC Foulkes. We were hoping you could spare some time to assist us in an investigation.”
“Are you arresting me for something?” Amy greeted, only half joking.
“Not at all, but you might prefer this to be discussed in private.”
“Actually I kind of know why you’re here,” Amy said, wincing apprehensively. “But I’ve not told my housemates, yet maybe I should...” She glanced at the concerned faces in front of her. “I’ve not done anything wrong. It’s about the test results isn’t it?”
The nods from both detectives were weighted with concern.
“So the results have come back?” Carolyn asked. “It’s herpes isn’t it… a cold sore?”
Amy shrugged painfully.
“They’re not sure what it is, Caz. My doctor said it’s an infection, but it falls into a pretty unique category and doesn’t actually have a medical name.”
As Amy paused, the female detective took over.
“I’m DC Mills,” she said, shaking Amy’s hand. “Girls, am I right in thinking that you’ve all recently qualified as doctors?”
“Yeah, only three weeks ago,” Carolyn replied. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Well, there’s no easy way of asking this, but have you come into contact with many dead bodies during your course?”
“Occasionally,” Carolyn replied belligerently. “We try not to, but unfortunately it does kind of come with the territory. ”
“And have you all been working in the morgues at all recently?” Mills asked. “It’s just that you all might need to come in for test too.”
Carolyn’s eyes widened at the scope of the questioning. “What?” she questioned. “I’ve been down to the morgues, we all have, but we’ve only just qualified. We’re taking six months off before we start working in A an' E properly. Look, we’ve just got back from a holiday. What the hell’s going on?”
The mention of the holiday resonated with Amy. She couldn’t force her own theory from her lips, not yet.
The male officer took over the reins again, more assertive this time.
“We’re investigating a potential outbreak at the hospital. Amy’s infection is unusual, not at all life threatening, but very unusual. It displays certain characteristics. There’s no easy way of explaining this. I’m afraid it’s shown up bacteria consistent with that found on decomposing bodies, the recently deceased... if you will.”
The full absurdity of the suggestion slowly dawned on Amy’s housemates. Amy slumped down to sit on the stairs, but stayed quiet to let their own realisation hit home.
“That’s ridiculous,” Carolyn suddenly snapped. “The lesion’s on her lip. What exactly are you suggesting? That Amy’s been kissing dead people in the morgue?”
“That’s not what we’re suggesting at all,” the female officer assured. “Though her GP has raised the topic of necrophilia as a potential line of inquiry.”
The word alone threw a veiled silence over the hallway.
Amy paused for a second to review her possibilities, glancing again at the anxiety etched into her housemates’ faces, but she knew she’d made the connection.
“Look,” she began tentatively, “it might not be the morgues at all. Something happened on holiday.”
Every face in the hallway turned her way. Amy looked at her feet and then again at her friends for support.
“In Morocco,” she continued, “a local man tried to kiss me. I met him for a meal and he got me drunk then he threw himself at me. There was a struggle and I pushed him off, but I remember him slobbering all over me as I fought him off. He bit my lip as he tried to kiss me, but I got away. He chased me but I got away. When the infection started, I thought it was a cold sore. We all thought the same.”
“Are you saying someone tried to abduct you?” the female detective asked.
“I think she’d remember that,” Joanne interrupted.
“I’m not sure, maybe,” Amy answered as a tear welled heavily in her eye. “He seemed pretty keen on getting me back to his place, but everything’s hazy. I wasn’t sure if he drugged me.”
“You’re not sure if he drugged you?” Foulkes quizzed.
“Well, he hardly advertised the fact,” Amy snapped back.
An uneasy silence shrouded the hallway again, this time left to the female officer to break.
“And did you report this?”
“No,” Amy said cagily. “We just wanted to come home and forget about it. I’ve had so much going on recently and couldn’t deal with it, and I’ve not been thinking straight. I just accepted I’d somehow caught a cold sore virus...from him.”
“We cut our holiday short because of what happened,” Carolyn piped up as an offer of support. “Jesus, do you think it could be related? Oh my God, do you think it could be him kissing dead people? Do you think he’s infected you?”
The girls looked at each other as the colour drained from Amy’s cheeks.
“Well, whatever’s happened, it sounds like you’ve had a very lucky escape,” Mills offered in support.
“From what?” Joanna questioned unable to take the suggestion on board. “Are you saying Amy was kissed by some crazed, serial killer, someone who keeps his victims’ bodies afterwards?”
“All we’re saying is this bacteria is very, very peculiar. But it does sounds like you could have been next on his list. Amy, we’re going to need you to make a statement about this.”
The detective’s words were wasted. Amy’s mind was elsewhere, floating away in a cloud of confusion. Instinct told her the encounter was threatening. There was no doubt the man was creepy, but next on the hit list of some sexual deviant? Her world slowly collapsed inwards as the shock and adrenaline nullified her defences, but deep down she already knew. The next piece in a terrifying jigsaw had just slotted into place. However, the puzzle was more horrifying than anyone could have imagined; a lot more horrifying.
She kept the thought to herself, but if Amy was right, she hadn’t just been next on his list; she’d been the first, over two decades ago.
Phil Martin is a Manchester lad. The Long Kiss Goodbye is the prologue of Phil Martin's debut novel, Child Number Three. Martin has also written The Attached, Killing Doves and Stripped Bare.
For more chapters visit: http://www.philmartinauthor.blogspot.com/
To buy Child Number Three go here.