Saturday, 5 May 2012

Past Due, Chapter One

Bertena Varney, sociology professor and author of Lure of the Vampire: A Pop Culture Reference Book, recently reviewed Past Due for The Examiner and awarded it 5 stars. Read her review here.

Right now, it's time for another #SampleSunday. I hope you enjoy this excerpt of Past Due.

Book Blurb: Francis 'Frankie' Wright thought she was an old hat at dealing with the supernatural, until she was reassigned to Edinburgh, the most haunted city in the world.

Her latest case soon takes a deadly turn. Young women are being slain in satanic rituals and it's up to Frankie to find the murderer before he kills again.

Frankie must juggle vampires, shapeshifters, witches and zombies, all the while trying to keep the truth from her sceptical ex-boyfriend, Will Campbell, who just happens to be heading up the police investigation.

The clock is ticking and she soon finds herself forced to team up with the vampires and shapeshifters in order to stop the killer before he can literally unleash hell on earth.

Chapter One
Francis Wright took one last look over her shoulder to be sure no one was watching, then deftly picked the door lock. Thirty seconds later she closed the door behind her, safe inside the apartment. It wasn’t that she was a master lock picker that gave her such speed, merely the right equipment.
Should she be caught carrying a locksmiths tools without a locksmiths licence there would be awkward questions, but Frankie was certain she’d never face any consequences.
She felt along the wall until she found the light switch, and then headed deeper into the apartment. The fact she’d had to come at night made stealth both harder, in that she needed to use lights at all, and easier in that there were fewer people around to see. She’d long ago learnt that using a home’s own lights drew a lot less attention than a flickering torchlight.
The body had been moved but it was easy to see where it had lain, just inside the doorway to the living room. There were no helpful chalk outlines but the large pool of blood suggested that whoever had fallen there, had not walked away under their own steam.
She sighed and pushed a gloved hand through her dark hair.
Sometimes I hate this job,” she muttered. She knelt down beside the largest blood stain and pulled one of her leather gloves off. She rested her palm gently against the carpet and closed her eyes. Images of the horrific death flashed through her mind and she gritted her teeth. The poor girl had died painfully, but at least it was quick. A small mercy.
She opened her eyes and removed her hand, swallowing down the residual pain and fear she was left with.
Sometimes I really hate this job.” She stood up, whirling around as someone coughed behind her.

Standing in the hallway was a man. Damn, she had hoped to get out unseen.
Even if she hadn't recognized him, his posture and clothes would have given him away as a cop. She wondered briefly when he'd made detective, before reminding herself to stay focused.
The policeman narrowed his eyes. “Well well, if it isn't Francis Wright. I didn’t expect to see you again.”
Good god, Will, could you be any more of a cliché?”
Will smiled. He didn’t seem upset to find her in his crime scene, in fact he looked pleased. He shrugged at her question. “People find clichés comforting,” he told her.
I’m sure.” She looked around the crime scene, upset that further examination would now be hindered. She couldn’t do what she usually did without drawing some unwanted questions, but she thought she might just have time to… she turned and took a few steps into the living room, running the back of her index finger across the symbol on the wall.
She frowned, wishing she could run her hand over it again, but as she turned back she noticed he was looking at her hand. He had noticed. Hopefully he’d dismiss it as nothing. She pulled her glove back on.
Will followed her into the living room. “So, what does MI5 want with this?” he asked.
She shrugged. “It’s probably nothing.”
He raised his eyebrows in frustration, an expression she had grown to know and detest. “Francis, come on, it’s me you’re talking to.”
It’s Frankie, William, and I’m telling the truth. The young woman was a known acquaintance of a suspected low level terrorist. We have to check her death out but, one, I seriously doubt it’s him and two, even if he is a terrorist, he’s too low in the scheme of things to ever be a real threat. Your city is safe.”
For now.” He muttered darkly.
For now.” She agreed. The whole story was a lie, but it was a lie she was used to telling.
So who is this suspected terrorist?” he asked.
I can’t tell you that. Sorry, it’s classified.”
So why are you poking around if there’s no threat?” His voice was calm but she could hear the determination to get answers.
Her reply was irritable. Too many memories of his questions; questions she couldn’t answer. “Because until I poke around I can’t be sure there is no threat.”
He sighed, recognising her emotions just as she had known his. He tried to let go of his police demeanour; it wasn’t easy but he knew that was the only way to engage her in real conversation.
So what were you looking for?” he asked. When she frowned he continued. “I might be able to help. I do know this crime scene better than you.”
Frankie shook her head and tried to release herself from the old patterns of behaviour. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years and it’s like a day hasn’t passed.” She smiled. There had been a lot of good memories too.
He returned her smile and seemed to relax. “It’s good to see you, Frankie.” He opened his arms for a hug.
She hesitated briefly, but reasoned they were both in thick winter coats and she had her gloves on, so as long as he didn’t kiss her cheek, she’d be fine. She stepped into his arms.
Will noticed her hesitation and recognised it, but he didn’t comment on it. She breathed deeply, inhaling that familiar mixture of Joop, polo mints and Will. It was a comforting smell and one she associated with good memories.
When she pulled away, far too soon for Will’s liking, he let her go. He had liked holding her again, it felt like coming home. He’d also remembered, too late, her aversion to touching.
So, what were you looking for?” he moved the conversation onto safer territory.
Anything to either prove or disprove whether our suspect might be involved.”
And is he?”
Frankie gestured to the walls. “I hardly think an Islamic fundamentalist would be drawing pagan symbols on the walls in blood, do you?”
Will conceded the point with a shrug. “Do you want to look over the reports?”
I already have,” she sounded distracted as she examined the symbols.
What! God damn Secret Service, you think you can just have whatever you want!”
Frankie turned around slowly. “It’s the Security Service or MI5, if you must be colloquial. And you just offered to let me see the reports so I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Yeah, I offered. There’s a big difference between me letting you have something and you taking it.”
Look, I have no say over how MI5 operate. If you prefer I could just call the boys in and take over your investigation.” This wasn’t the diplomacy she’d been taught, but screw diplomacy.
Oh right, the mighty MI5 like investigating serial killers now, do they?”
That caught her by surprise. “Serial?”
He smiled, seemingly pleased she didn’t know everything. “We had another one this evening.”
Frankie closed her eyes, took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. “Oh no.” Things were about to get a lot more complicated. “So is it the same as this murder?”
Exactly. I came back to get some more photos of the finger painting for comparison.”
So there were also pagan symbols at the new crime scene. Shit!
What did she tell him? That despite telling him this had nothing to do with MI5, she would now be running a parallel investigation because of the wiccan symbols on the walls? Yeah, that’d go down really well. If only she hadn't been in Aberdeen investigating UFO’s, she would have had time to properly go over the files, to see that Will was involved. She would have had the police computer hacked, so she’d know immediately when the second murder was entered onto the system.
Sorry, it’s been a long week. I’ve been following leads in Aberdeen and all I wanted when I got back was a nice hot bath.”
His eyes narrowed as he realised she was lying but she didn’t notice. He let it slide for now.
Got back?” he asked.
Yeah, I moved up here about three months ago.”
And you didn’t look me up?” he feigned hurt.
Yeah,” her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Because things ended so well between us.”
That was a long time ago.” He reminded her.
I know. Feels like yesterday though. You know, dating a policeman made me the least cool student at Edinburgh University.”
Really? Because dating you made me the most envied copper in the Lothian and Borders Police.”
She smiled. “Charmer.”
Come on, let me buy you dinner and I’ll fill you in on the other murder.”
You’ll share information about an ongoing investigation with a civilian? Isn’t that against the rules?”
You’re hardly a civilian, Frankie.” He realised there was more to her being here than she was telling him. He also knew that sharing a little information would make her more likely to open up to him in return. If she wanted to play games, he was more than willing.
Deal, but just fast food, Okay, no fancy restaurants.”
You’re still on a mission to have the highest cholesterol in Scotland, then?” He remembered her love of fast food.
Of course.” It was a lot more than a love of fast food. Fast food meant finger food, which meant she wouldn’t have to either use cutlery that many other people had handled, or worse use her own cutlery she carried in her bag. She was used to people thinking she had obsessive compulsive disorder, it was a good cover. In fact she frequently told people she had the condition, but that didn’t mean she liked the side long glances, especially when it came to people she cared about.

It was 2am when Frankie finally made it home and logged onto her computer. It was directly linked to MI5’s main frame and as such, she could access any police system in the UK. A few abroad as well, but those weren’t talked about.
As she looked over the latest murder report, she could see that Will had told her the truth over dinner. So what did an occult serial killer mean?
She had already seen from the first crime scene that this was no wannabe, whoever it was knew his pagan symbols and didn’t rely just on the pentagram. Was he killing for his witchcraft, or was he just expressing his beliefs at the scenes?
If he was killing for a reason, he was working some powerful magic. Blood magic was the strongest. Sacrificial magic… Well, Frankie hadn't encountered that yet, and she had hoped she never would.
Then there was the question of who had painted those symbols. It was clear that whoever had painted them had done so with bare hands because she could see fingerprints in the blood, but she had gotten no impressions off them when she touched them.
Frankie had been both blessed and cursed with a gift; she was psychic. Nothing helpful, like seeing the future, but she could see impressions left by people’s souls. Every time you touch something, you leave an impression and Frankie could read those. Stronger emotions leave a bigger impression, and considering that the killer had just brutally murdered someone, he should have been rather emotional.
So what did that mean? Could a ghost have killed her? Most ghosts were nothing more than a strong impression themselves - they couldn’t harm anyone - and trapped souls, which did have the power to harm, would surely leave an impression themselves. Plus, she doubted souls had fingerprints.
Then there was Will. He was lead investigator on this and his involvement would only make things more difficult for her.
Frankie met Will in her last year of university. He was perfect; handsome, charming and very good to her, but Frankie had been fooling herself that she could have a relationship with anyone. Will had been her last ditch attempt.
Her gift also allowed her to read the people around her, meaning she could see into Will’s past, both his actions and his thoughts. Frankie hated that, hated knowing peoples' secrets, and of course not everyone’s thoughts were particularly nice.
Two totally naked bodies in almost total contact, overwhelmed her gift. Not only did she see more than she ever wanted to; it hurt. Before meeting Will, Frankie had only had sex twice, and both times she’d had to be totally drunk. The alcohol dimmed the edges but not enough.
For four months she had kept Will waiting, kissing him only occasionally and as briefly as possible. He respected her boundaries and waited for her to be ready, but she had felt him beginning to pull away. Not wanting to lose him, she had made their relationship physical.
She'd tried getting drunk but Will hadn't liked that. She tried valium but Will noticed that too. Anyway, neither helped very much so she finally tried sex while stone cold sober. It had been awful.
By this point he knew something was wrong with her and put it down to abuse suffered in her childhood. Frankie knew that was what he thought, because she could see those thoughts for herself. She considered telling him the truth but she didn’t want him thinking she was a freak, just like everyone else she’d ever told. She had loved him too much to bear seeing that look in his eyes.
So she left, heading back to England to accept the job offer from MI5. She didn’t discuss it with him and he was furious with her. They had the fight to end all fights. Frankie used a lot of the stuff she’d seen in his head against him, he called her all sorts of foul names before finally slamming the door on his way out.
Frankie had left the next day.
Now she realised that not only did she still care for him, until she’d found this occultist she’d likely be running into him quite often.
At half past three she decided to call it a night and start again tomorrow. She wasn’t thinking clearly and she’d been up since 7a.m. Maybe some sleep would help her focus.

Alexander McNabb frowned at his computer screen. According to the BBC news site there had been a second murder. Unfortunately no name had been released yet.
He sighed and leaned back in his chair, wondering what his next move should be. It wasn’t necessarily bad news. The first girl, Kerry, had been a patron of his club but there was nothing to say this latest victim was.
He heard the door open and looked up to see Kate standing there.
Here’s tonight’s takings,” she handed him the bag of cash. “I’m off, boss.”
Everywhere locked?”
Kate nodded. “You look beat, you need an early night.”
He smiled. “Maybe. Good night Kate.”
As the door closed behind her, Alex got to his feet. He needed to find out who this second victim was. The article didn’t give an address but it did list an area. Surely the area would still be swimming with police; it wouldn’t be hard to find.

In the end it was the news vans that gave the location away, and Alex pulled up close to them. Although the risk of being recognised was low, he decided to question the news teams before the police. They often had more information than they put in their reports.
He struck up a casual conversation with the camera man from STV, Pete, and sympathised with him about the cold. When he was sure they weren’t being watched, he caught the cameraman's gaze.
Pete found himself unable to look away, and watched in amazement as the cool blue eyes of his new friend grew darker. By the time they were midnight blue, he felt calm and relaxed.
Do you know the name of the woman who was killed tonight?” Alex asked softly.
Pete knew he shouldn’t tell a member of the public her name, but this guy was alright, he was trustworthy. Pete would stake his life on that. “Sylvia Fornham.”
He name didn’t mean anything to Alex, but considering how busy his club was, he couldn’t know all the patrons by name. “Do you have a photograph of her?”
Pete nodded. “But we can’t release it until the family have been informed.”
Of course, I understand. Could I see that photograph?”
Sure.” Pete stepped up into the van and pulled the image up on one of the screens.
Alex’s expression showed no reaction but his fists clenched.
Look at me.” Pete did as he was told. “You will only remember our conversation as a friendly chat. You will not remember my face, my asking about the victim or showing me this photograph, do you understand?”
Alex released his hold on Pete’s mind and disappeared before Pete had even blinked.
Pete wondered why he was back inside the van. He shook his head, thinking he was getting old before his time. Mind you, a full night sleep now and again would probably improve things, but he needed the money right now.
He sighed and wondered if he could take the van and find a Costa Coffee. He badly needed a double espresso right now.

Alex might not know the names of everyone who visited his club, but he did know faces and Sylvia Fornham was a face he knew.
He drove much faster than the speed limits allowed, knowing that he could use mind control on any policeman who dared stop him. He would have liked to go faster but these roads didn’t allow for the kind of speed that would help ease his anger.
Someone was killing people from his club. This alone would be enough to anger him but by choosing girls from his club, the killer was drawing attention onto Alex. Alex’s life didn’t bear scrutiny.
He wondered how long he had before the police discovered that both girls had his club in common. Sylvia hadn't been a frequent visitor, so maybe it would take them a while to make the link. He hoped so, because his only option was to find the killer first and the more time he had, the better.
Alex’s car screeched to a stop just inches from the back wall of the club and he sat there for a few moments. Now that he had a plan he felt a little better. Of course the one flaw in his plan was that he had absolutely no idea exactly how one went about finding a killer.

Frankie roused herself from bed at 10 the next morning, and quickly made a strong coffee before logging back onto her computer. Using MI5’s access, she read the latest police reports. Not a lot had changed but there were more forensic details, the same fibres, prints and hair found at the second scene as the first. Things were about to get difficult for her but she had an idea. Noting from the reports that he’d risen quickly through he ranks, she called his station and asked the switchboard operator for Detective Chief Inspector William Campbell.
Campbell,” he sounded distracted.
Wright,” she teased. No one else she knew could answer a phone so briskly yet not sound rude.
Frankie,” she could hear he was pleased to hear from her. “I’m really sorry but-“
She cut him off. “I have a suggestion for you. Just hear me out, okay? I want to help you with this case. I don’t have a lot on and I have access to resources you don’t, so I can cut through a lot of red tape for you.”
I do not want M.I. bloody 5 running roughshod though this!” he hissed, keeping his voice low.
They won’t, Will, just me. Come on, I can help you. Imagine it, I can search suspects houses and call in an anonymous tip that will get you a warrant.”
We won’t get a warrant based on a tip,”
You don’t know the judges that we do.”
His silence told her he was mad.
Look, do you really want another terrorist attack because we couldn’t get a warrant for a wiretap?”
He sighed. “Of course not.”
Then face reality and realise that we have sympathetic judges helping us.”
Frankie…” there was a whining quality to his voice she recognised. She was winning.
Look, it doesn’t matter how much of a golden boy you are there, the chances are that if there’s another murder, your bosses are going to take over your case and take all the glory.” She let that sink in for a moment. “Come on, just say yes. You know you want to.”
Okay, but on a couple of conditions.”
One, you check with me before doing anything.”
Fine.” Yeah, right!
And two, no funny spy stuff.”
Agreed.” She wondered what counted as funny spy stuff. Chasing occultists?
Great. Tell the guys at the crime scene I’m coming. Tell them I’m a psychologist and I'm doing a profile. Don’t worry, I’ll get you a real profile of the scum bag but it’s a good cover.”
They’ll need to see ID.”
Will, I’m a spy for Christ sake.” Sometimes he could be a little slow on the uptake.
Fine. I’ll let them know you’re coming. Are you at least using your own name?”
No, Francine Williams.”
He gave an exasperated sigh. “Fine. I’ll speak to you later.” He hung up.
Frankie glared at her receiver. “Thanks for the help, Frankie. Anytime, Will, what are friends for?” She slammed the received down. “Men!”

The second murder had been committed across town from the first. Serial killers usually stayed in a comfort zone and Frankie wondered if there was any significance to the locations.
The murder had taken place in a flat on the Broomhouse Estate, a council estate that had seen better days. The officers watching the door let her through easily enough and she began taking pictures of the scene. The victim this time had fallen in the hallway, on her way to the kitchen. It looked like both victims had been running away from the front door.
Once again, the killer had finger painted pagan symbols on the walls in the victims’ blood. She took a lot of pictures of them. She would also have to return to the first crime scene as she’d been unable to get pictures last night.
She pulled off her glove and touched one of the symbols with the back of her fingers. Once again she got nothing. She closed her eyes and tried again, concentrating harder on picking something up.
There was something. It was very faint, like it had been left ages ago and grown faint with time. But that made no sense, there were fingerprints in the blood, someone had touched the wall, presumably while in an aroused emotional state. She should be getting a flood of images.
She knelt by the bloodstains on the floor and touched one. Like last night’s victim, she felt pain and fear, but there was disbelief in there too. Frankie clenched her jaw, trying to sift through the images and emotions.
A pale face, glimpsed over her shoulder. Too pale, something was wrong. Her attacker looked clammy, sick. Frankie replayed the memory, but it was just a glimpse and she could make out no more details. Sylvia had fallen face first towards the kitchen and she hadn't had a chance to look back again.
Frankie wiped the moisture away from her eyes, then pulled her glove back on and stood up. She hated having to touch crime scenes; the onslaught of emotions always left her feeling raw and weak. But she was used to it, so she swallowed her feelings down and headed into the kitchen.
A lot of the information on Sylvia was still being compiled, it would take a few days before a full picture of her life was built up. In the meantime, Frankie could build a fairly complete picture with her gift.
The first thing she looked for was a notice board. Jotted messages, cards pinned up, and photographs would all help her build up a picture. Unfortunately Sylvia didn’t have a message board, or fridge magnets. The next best thing was the kitchen junk drawer, which sure enough Sylvia had.
It was overflowing. Frankie pulled off her gloves and took each item out one by one. The take away menus mainly had memories of her boyfriend, except for the Chinese menu which she ordered from when her friend Sasha came round. There were some business cards, a plumber (flooded kitchen) a herbalist shop (health kick, only lasted a month) matches from a nightclub (dark, loud, Sylvia had enjoyed it) her work ID (she didn’t want to be a secretary all her life) gas, electric and council tax bills (money was tight) a list of night classes (she wanted to study English, hoped to become a teacher one day) pens and pencils, an assortment of shopping lists, phone messages, Christmas and birthday cards.
Next she went into the sitting room and sat in what looked like Sylvia’s chair. The memories from such a frequently used chair overwhelmed her for a moment and Frankie clutched the arms of the chair as she fought a wave of vertigo. She swallowed down the bile in her throat and tried to sift through the memories.
Sylvia fought with her mother a lot over the phone. The last thing she’d watched had been BBC News 24, just before heading to bed; she was looking forward to Sunday with her boyfriend, she was going to cook for him. They’d made love on, in and over this chair a few times.
When she could take no more, Frankie literally fell out of the chair onto the floor. This psychic business was exhausting. She could feel her hands trembling and rummaged in her bag for a chocolate bar. Sugar always helped when she felt like this.
A few minutes later she felt better. The thought that she still had to do this again at the first crime scene wasn’t very comforting.
Trying to put off the inevitable, Frankie wandered around the apartment, touching various surfaces and ornaments. She opened the wardrobe and touched the clothes, the cosmetics on her dressing table, her bedding. She didn’t get much more information than she already had and finally called it a day.
As she drove to the first crime scene, she went over everything she'd learned to cement it in her memory.
The apartment was just as she remembered it from last night. First she tried touching the symbols on the walls again and got the very faint, indistinct impression again. Nothing useful in those impressions and it frightened her that who or whatever was doing this was very different from anything she had encountered before. Soulless.
She knelt down by the blood stains on the floor and touched them again. Just like she remembered from last night, Kerry had not seen her attacker. She hadn't looked back even once, almost as though she didn’t want to.
Kerry didn’t have a message board but she did have a fridge. There were a few photographs taken in a dark nightclub, (she’d worked there when she was a student) a half complete shopping list (she liked Sainsbury’s) and a recipe torn from a magazine (to impress her mother when she came to visit).
Kerry didn’t have a junk drawer but Frankie found a box in the living room that held similar things. Bills, takeout menus, an address book, a few instruction manuals, some business cards, more photos. She went through each item again and paused at the photographs. Everyone was wearing black and dark makeup. Gothic. Like the impression she’d got from a pack of matches from Sylvia’s flat.
Frankie concentrated on each photo, hoping one of them held the memory of a name. One did - Dante’s.
She had her first link between the victims. It could be a coincidence, she was sure a lot of people had gone to that club, and Sylvia wasn’t a regular visitor whereas Kerry had worked there and still went regularly.
Frankie still had to check it out though and made up her mind to visit the club tonight.
She checked the rest of the apartment. She didn’t discover much more about Kerry, but she did realise from Kerry’s wardrobe that her own wardrobe was sadly lacking if she wanted to blend into the Goth scene.

Will ran a hand through his dishevelled blonde hair.
You’ll need to do more than that before the press conference,” DS Mike Wilson told him.
Yeah,” he agreed. He was tired and worried. Frankie was as sharp as a tack; always had been. He hadn't been surprised when MI5 had suggested she apply for a job but he hadn't liked the idea either. Cops and spies didn’t mix well. If he was honest, he was a little jealous of their ability to circumvent the law while he was stuck within its limits, but mostly he hated their superior attitude.
It was something the whole force understood, you almost picked it up by osmosis even if you’d never encountered them before. And whenever investigations did intersect, MI5 didn’t disappoint.
He trusted Frankie, though they had only been together for 6 months. She’d been secretive and he was sure she lied to him about her problems. She hadn't told him she’d accepted a job with MI5 and he was fairly sure she hadn't intended to tell him she was leaving.
Well, he had never said trusting her was rational.
He also had a feeling that rather than helping him, he had just made his life much harder when he accepted her offer.

Unwilling to buy a new gothic outfit, Frankie donned her usual black jeans and a dark shirt. She considered wearing dark makeup but she didn’t have any black and figured trying to be someone she wasn’t would only make her stand out more.
She considered telling Will where she was going but if she found the killer, she didn’t want the police getting in the way; they’d only get hurt.
She emailed her boss in London, giving him an update and telling him her plans for tonight. Now if she went missing, at least someone would know where she’d gone.

Alex was pacing his office. He had a lot to do tonight and wasn’t sure where to start.
His first instinct was to stay at the club and watch over its patrons but he couldn’t watch them all every night. If he wanted to keep his patrons safe, his best bet was to find the killer. He needed to see the crime scenes, see what he could find there. Perhaps it was an ex-lover they shared, or a friend. If he could find some proof of a connection, he would at least have a lead.
First however, he needed to show his face at the club. He was always there and if he began acting differently now, people would notice.
When Dante’s had been renovated, Alex had had half the first floor taken out, meaning from the other half, where his office sat above the storeroom he could look down over his club. It was packed tonight.
He stood on the landing and surveyed his domain. He knew it was cheesy to feel that way about a club but he liked it. He didn’t need to explain himself to anyone.
Even though the club was dark his eyesight was good enough to see into every corner. He concentrated on hearing individual conversations. No one seemed to have realised both murdered girls had come here. Yet.
He spotted her the moment she entered and knew immediately she wasn’t just another patron. First of all he hadn't seen her before, secondly, she didn’t look like a Goth, Emo or freak and finally, she had a mission. He could tell from her demeanour that she wasn’t just bar hopping.
He reached out with his mind and touched her life force, smiling when he realised she wasn’t quite human. He wondered what had brought her here, checking up on a boyfriend, perhaps? If so, he pitied the girl he was found with.
Ordinarily he would enjoy getting to know her, discovering her secrets, coaxing her into his bed. As it was, he only had time to make sure she wasn’t a threat.
He descended into the bar and began his usual round of meet and greet; one of the less appealing aspects of his job, unless he was hungry.

The club wasn’t as loud or as dark as she’d thought it would be. In her experience of clubs the volume levels were deafening but here, while the music was loud, a conversation could be had without shouting. The lighting was provided using uplighters and diffused light sources but the result was subdued lighting rather than darkness. There were also no strobe lights or glitter balls - always a good thing in Frankie’s book.
She liked it
She decided to start with the bar staff. Just like the impression she had gotten from the victims' belongings, it seemed Kerry was a regular but Sylvia had only been in a few times. Some didn’t even recognise Sylvia. For a large tip they told her who both girls had been seen with. The list for Kerry was much longer than for Sylvia but none had any matching names. Kerry knew a lot of people since she’d worked here, but she tended to stay with the same group these days.
When she handed the money over, Frankie was careful to touch them, to make sure they were telling her the truth.
She stood at the bar, wondering who to question next when the hair on the back of her neck stood up as someone came up behind her.
A side effect of her gift was that she could sense what she described as auras - peoples' energy. She couldn’t actually see their memories without touching them but she’d learned early on that some people had different auras. As she had grown up she’d discovered why, getting herself into a few tight spots as a result.
She had sensed a few supernatural creatures when she’d walked in but there were so many people here, it had been hard to determine how many or what they were.
But now that he was standing right behind her, there was no mistaking that this supernatural creature was a vampire.
If you're interested in finding out what happens next, Past Due is available in paperback and kindle formats on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Review by P.R. Sadler on Amazon US: I was thrilled after the first chapter! Winchester's writing style is smooth as silk. The characters are quickly fleshed out and engaging with abundant personality. And the story moves forward at the perfect pace. I love urban fantasy, but so often it is poorly executed, unedited, knockoff drivel. Not so with this one. Past Due is a real jewel. This author can hold her own with the big girls (Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, and the early Hamilton). I finished this one last night and started Half Past this morning. I'm pretty sure this is the beginning of something wonderful! Keep them coming, I am looking forward to this ride!!!


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