The Neal James Website

                                  Guest Author

Submission Guidelines

 

As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.

Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.

Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accomodate those wanting to take part.

Submission length is limited to no more than 5,000 words, and a suitable spellchecker should be used to remove errors beforehand. A personal photograph should also be included (no avatars please), together with a brief biography.

Mailing address is: georgius4444@hotmail.co.uk

                                  October 2018

Mark Edmondson

 

 

 

Mark Edmondson was born in Bolton and now lives in Atherton, Manchester with his wife, Maggi and Grandson Joe.

          He’s been a lover of books since aged eleven when an old, copy of Jaws fell his way. Reading a book that was way more graphic and way more descriptive than the film immersed him into the world of adult fiction and he’s never looked back.

          Mark began writing twenty years ago, and has been doing it as a hobby ever since then. It was four years ago when at a family party, his niece Kadie told him off for never sending anything to an agent or publisher. The very next evening he emailed a sample of his writing to an agent, within half an hour the agent phoned him, and that’s when his journey began.

          As well as reading and writing, Mark enjoys a number of other hobbies including fell walking in the Lake District, playing the guitar, and helping to coach his grandson’s under 11’s football team.

          Mark has always had a keen interest in nature and has kept tropical fish for most of his life. He left school aged sixteen and began to work in his local aquarium. Three years later he was moved to a bigger branch of the company, and two years after that, he and Maggi, his now wife, bought the shop. He later built a second shop and still currently owns two tropical fish stores, as well as now writing for a living.

 

 

 

 The Beast of Bodmin

 

                                  
 
 
ISBN 9781911546368
 

Jo Green is a heroine of the Devon and Cornwall Police.

Thanks to Jo, OCD-plagued chess-player Vladek Boniek is serving thirty years for murdering four women close to Bodmin Moor.

Jo, a police constable at the time, caught him. She’s now a detective. Her new career is accompanied by painful realisations about her personal life, which lead to the most serious emotional conflicts she’s ever had to face.

Meanwhile, on Bodmin Moor, six months after Boniek’s conviction, new killings take place.

Suspicions point to a phantom wild cat.

But is a big cat really the culprit, or is a new Beast of Bodmin on the loose?


 

Preview

 

1

 

While Steve drove the red Fiesta, Debbie looked around at the landscape in the summer dusk.

A June evening here on Bodmin Moor was about as different from one in Ealing as she could imagine. All around the solitary car was a vista of long, gently undulating green and brown-green moorland, dotted with occasional thin trees and narrow stone walls that rose higher in the far distance with rocky, hilly outcrops. 

Debbie hoped they could find somewhere to stay before nightfall. She was enjoying the views now, but she knew that this beautiful place would become very creepy indeed once the sun had completely disappeared from the sky.

Steve had come into her life the previous July. They’d had a few weekends away: Oxford, Brighton, even Calais, but this was their first proper holiday. They’d decided on a tour of Devon and Cornwall. She told Steve she got easily sunburnt and right away he said, ‘OK then, let’s forget Majorca or the Canaries; let’s go to the West Country.’ That was just like him; he was just so considerate. She knew he really cared about her. That was one of the many reasons why she loved him.

They’d spent the first week in Devon, staying in Dartmouth before moving to Taunton for two nights, and then they began their journey through Cornwall. Debbie found it exciting travelling from place to place without booking anywhere first, but they left Devon later than they wanted to, and after spending a few hours in the town of Launceston, they reached their destination of Jamaica Inn at just past eight in the evening. At Jamaica Inn, they’d been told that there weren’t any rooms available. Steve had been relaxed and OK about that, and they had dinner there before setting off again. Debbie had been worried that in June, the height of the holiday season, they might struggle to find a place to stay. They’d brought a tent with them but they hadn’t used it yet, Debbie secretly hoped they wouldn’t use it at all; she liked to sleep in a bed, not on a groundsheet. Besides, how could she get all cuddly and affectionate at night with the man she loved if they were sleeping on some bumpy ground in a tent? She loved Steve a lot and adored being with someone much bigger than she was. She enjoyed feeling protected by her gentle giant of a boyfriend who was six feet two inches tall. She herself was only five feet three inches.     

‘We should’ve booked somewhere this morning,’ she said.

‘I know; I’m sort of kicking myself for that. We’ll keep going and stay in Truro. That’s inland, so the hotels are less likely to be full, whereas in St Austell, I don’t imagine we’d have much luck. Also Truro’s the only city in Cornwall, so we should be able to get a room there, easily enough.’

Debbie looked at the map. Everything Steve said had made sense, but she was worried it was getting late. ‘Steve, I don’t think we should have eaten at Jamaica Inn. It’s almost a quarter past nine and it’ll be dark soon. We should’ve set off as soon as they told us there were no rooms.’

          ‘I know, Debs, but I was starving hungry, and that steak really was worth waiting for.’

          Debbie tied her long brown hair into a ponytail so she could read the map. ‘How long before we get to Truro?’

          ‘It’ll most likely take us an hour to get to Truro on this road; it winds like a snake. We’ll be driving in pitch darkness for the last part of the journey.’

          ‘Yes, I know.’

          ‘To be honest, I’m feeling a little light-headed after that beer.’

          ‘You only had a pint, you won’t be over the limit, will you, Steve?’

          ‘Don’t worry; I’m sure I’m not.’

He wiped his eyes one at a time as he tried to focus on the road. ‘We could camp out instead,’ he added, suddenly.

A twinge of unease pricked the back of Debbie’s neck as he made this suggestion.

          ‘Steve, do we have to?’

          ‘What’s the problem? It’ll be exciting.’

          ‘It’ll be terrifying, you mean. Especially once it goes dark.’

          ‘Come on, Debs, we’ll be fine. It’s a warm evening after all. We’ll find somewhere secluded and near some greenery; you know, for if we need the loo. We’ve got the tent, and torches, and plenty of water for drinking and washing, and in the morning we’ll find a cafe somewhere for breakfast. I’ll set the tent up, which will only take ten minutes or so, and we’ve still got some bottles of lager left. We can watch the sun go down in the middle of nowhere, completely on our own.’

After Steve said that, Debbie found, rather to her surprise, that she was actually beginning to like the sound of his suggestion of camping on the moors. He made it sound quite romantic.

‘And we can make love as loudly as we want,’ Steve said, with a smile. ‘After all, we couldn’t last night in Taunton, not with those two old women in the room next one along. Bloody hell, the look they gave us in the corridor in the morning! Anyone would have thought that lovemaking was a crime.’

Steve carried on driving further along the road, which wound up and down and darted right and then left, then right again. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes. Debbie knew that, quite apart from anything else, they would save sixty or seventy pounds by staying in the tent and their holiday money was limited.

          ‘I suppose it’ll save us a few quid,’ she said.

          ‘That’s the spirit,’ he said. He started looking more intently for somewhere they could camp. Finally, after about another ten minutes, the road went down a shallow hill, at the foot of which Debbie saw a rocky outcrop maybe a hundred yards from the road, with what looked like a small spinney close by.

          ‘There,’ she said, pointing to it. ‘What d’you think?’

‘Looks great,’ he said. ‘Well spotted.’

          He drove down to where the road reached as close as it got to the place Debbie had seen, then he drove the car off the road for maybe fifty yards. They hadn’t seen another car for ages; it really is pretty creepy out here, Debbie thought, but knowing she was with Steve made her feel safe.

They carried their supplies and equipment over to the rocky outcrop and found a secluded place to set up camp. They spent the next twenty minutes or so setting the tent up. This was a task Debbie had imagined she’d soon get bored with, but she was starting to share Steve’s excitement as the daylight slowly disappeared and the sun stood alone in the late summer evening sky. Distracted by the intoxicating views and peaceful environment, she allowed Steve to do most of the work and passed him the tent pegs one at a time as he asked for them; he then hammered them into the ground with the rubber mallet.

          She saw some sheep in the distance. There was a wooded area a couple of hundred yards away; but nothing else visible except for endless fields that seemed to her to go on for miles. The sun glowed in a dark red sky that had almost vanished from her view. She wanted to tell Steve to stop what he was doing and enjoy it with her, but on the other hand she wanted the job to be done before the darkness closed in around them; so she just soaked in the beautiful scenery and let him carry on.

 


 

2

 

The camping chair sank into the soft grass as she sat down with her bottle of lager.

‘This is the life,’ Debbie said, with a smile.

‘Coming around to the idea of wild camping now, are we?’ Steve asked.

‘I’m not looking forward to the morning when we can’t have a shower, and I really don’t fancy going in that spinney when I need the loo, though I know there isn’t much choice. But yes, at this moment, I’m enjoying myself.’

Steve smiled. He leaned over to kiss her and clink her bottle with his. She felt as though there was something romantic about being out in the middle of nowhere, just her and Steve watching the sun go down, she wanted this moment to last forever. She held his hand as they enjoyed the silence together.

Minutes passed as the dark slowly surrounded them. She thought that she would be scared once the daylight disappeared, but she wasn’t. She knew she would’ve been scared if she was there with anyone other than Steve, especially now that she couldn’t see more than about twenty feet ahead of her; but now she was very relaxed as she held onto Steve’s hand. As they sat there she couldn’t hear a thing other than the occasional car in the distance, and the infrequent light breeze that whistled through her ears.

She thought of how at this time on a Sunday evening she would normally be getting ready for bed and setting her alarm for six thirty in the morning. Working in a sandwich bar was a job she found enjoyable, but not catching two trains to get there she didn’t; but it was where she met Steve, so she felt as though it was worth the inconvenience. He’d been a regular customer of hers for several months before he nervously asked her out. He’d always come across to her as an extremely confident young guy who probably had oodles of girls chasing after him. If it wasn’t for how nervous he was when he asked her to go out with him, she probably would’ve said no. She found it endearing that although he was a fit and healthy young man who obviously visited the gym and the barber on a regular basis, he wasn’t so sure of himself as to ask a girl out without his hands shaking and his voice trembling. So she said yes, after letting him sweat for ten seconds or so first.

Debbie was used to the hustle and bustle of city life, so now she was enjoying the quiet of the moors. This peaceful serene location, being here with Steve; this was the happiest she’d ever been. This was her favourite part of the holiday so far.

 

An hour later, once it was dark – there was no moon that night – they took everything inside the tent and closed the front flap. They stripped down to their underwear before climbing inside the two sleeping bags that they had zipped together; this was something that made the idea of camping a little cosier, much better than being in separate sleeping bags, Debbie thought. Steve lay on his back as Debbie rested her head on his shoulder.

‘Night night,’ she said.

‘Are we leaving noisy sex for another day then?’ he asked.

‘It’s up to you,’ she said. She waited for his answer. Although she was enjoying the romance of the evening, she was ready for sleep. She was still happy in the surroundings, but she started to feel a little isolated and vulnerable as the dark had closed in, she decided she would rather go to sleep.  

‘It’s OK,’ he said. ‘I’m pretty tired, to be honest.’

She felt a little relieved and kissed him on the cheek and then closed her eyes.

‘I love you,’ he said. This made her smile, not that this was a phrase he didn’t use very often, but still one that she was happy to hear, just as much now as when he’d first said it.

‘I love you too.’

She knew she’d be the first one to drift off to sleep, and moments later, she did.

 

Sometime later, Debbie thought she’d been asleep for maybe an hour or more, but she wasn’t exactly sure, she drowsily woke up. She heard the sound of the zip on the sleeping bag being opened very slowly one notch at a time.

She thought she was dreaming and tried to ignore it; but then the rustling noise of Steve climbing out was too much disturbance to ignore. She presumed he was going to the bathroom and kept her eyes firmly shut. There were no more noises. She remembered that they weren’t at one of the bed and breakfasts that they’d been staying at on their way through Devon; they were camping on Bodmin Moor.

          Debbie forced her eyes open and sat up. It was pitch black inside the tent; she couldn’t see what was happening. Then she noticed the light at the opposite end of the tent. It was Steve lay on his stomach in front of the door panel, still wearing only his boxer shorts; he was using his mobile phone to see what he was doing. She wondered why he was only using the light of the menu screen and not the torch that she knew he had on his phone.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked. She must’ve spoken too loud as he jumped up quickly.

‘Shush,’ he whispered.

‘Sorry,’ she said.

He put his finger up to his mouth to silence her, making a shushing noise as he did.

 Now she was awake, now she was scared. Her eyes had adjusted a little; she could see the seriousness on Steve’s face in the glow of the light from his phone. ‘What is it?’ she whispered.

‘There’s something circling the tent,’ he whispered back.

Her stomach turned, suddenly she felt sick with fear

He crouched back down towards the front of the tent and peered through the zip that he’d already opened slightly.

She hoped that he was going to say it was a sheep, or even a horse; but any animal that couldn’t open zips on tents would be OK.

The light on the phone faded, he sat back up and pressed it on again. ‘I’m going outside to have a look.’

She couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. ‘You’re not going out there,’ she said, in her most stern, whispering voice.

‘It might be someone trying to steal my car.’

‘So what, let them have it. There could be more of them than us.’

‘I’m not letting anyone steal my car.’

She knew Steve could look after himself and he was big enough to scare away whoever it was, but for all they knew there could be four or five people outside of the tent.

He bent down again and looked through the flap of the tent which he opened a bit further. He then sat back again.

She knew he was going to go outside.

He unzipped the door of the tent slowly all the way to the opposite corner and let the flap fall to the floor.

She tried to look past him but she couldn’t see anything but the darkness of the night.

He turned around to her. ‘I’m going out; you stay here.’

‘Please don’t; I’m begging you,’ she said.

He ignored her and crawled through the door of the tent. He then put the torch on his phone which was much brighter than the menu screen.

Debbie sat still with her hands over her mouth, trying not to breathe so she could hear what was going on outside. She saw him stand up; he then walked to the left out of view of the doorway. The cold suddenly hit her from the night-time coolness making its way inside the tent. Other than Steve’s footsteps in the grass, she couldn’t hear anything. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest as she tried to control her fear. Seconds felt like hours, but she couldn’t bring herself to call to him. She could see the light from his phone through the canvas of the tent panel, but other than that, it was completely dark. She fumbled around the floor of the tent for her mobile phone so she could use it to see; she couldn’t find it, she then pictured it in the passenger door well of Steve’s car. 

The light moved to the back of the tent as she listened to the faint footsteps in the long summer grass. 

‘What the...?’ she heard Steve say under his breath.

She listened for the rest of the sentence but it never came. The footsteps started again as he seemed to walk back around to the side of the tent. Suddenly there was a scuffling noise as Steve and whatever it was fell to the floor. His phone landed on the grass, she could still see a faint glimmer of light as it lay still on the ground. The scuffle was right next to the tent, the side panel shook as Steve seemed to be grappling with someone or something.

‘Debbie!’ he shouted.

She was so terrified she felt her heart was almost torn from its moorings inside her.

‘Debbie, run!’ Steve shouted.

She screamed, and frantically started to climb out of her sleeping bag.

He started to shout again, but his voice was then smothered into a horrific gargling sound.

Debbie froze with horror. The noise was like no other she’d heard before as Steve coughed and choked. He spluttered as some inaudible words came from his mouth as if he was drowning.

Debbie screamed again. A whistling and wheezing noise filled the night air as the breath left Steve’s lungs. Then there was nothing but silence.

Debbie felt sick; she just sat there shaking with terror, still half inside her sleeping bag, tears running down her face. She had the ghastly certainty Steve was dead by the way his cry had suddenly stopped. She ached to get to him to at least try to help him; but she knew she couldn’t get past whatever was outside of the tent. If Steve couldn’t get the better of it, Debbie knew that she didn’t stand a chance. She was so scared she could hardly breathe, and she couldn’t see anything in the pitch black of the night. What could possibly have happened? Who or what had just attacked her boyfriend? The sound of her heartbeat thrashed in her ears as the sick feeling in her stomach had spread throughout her body. She didn’t think she could even stand, let alone run. She knew she was totally on her own and miles from anywhere.

She heard faint footsteps making their way to the doorway of the tent. Her eyes were useless to her in the blackness of the night. Too terrified to even think, she lay down inside the sleeping bag and curled into a ball. She felt the tent move as whatever it was came inside. The sinking of the soft ground underneath the tent made her feel how close it was getting. She could hear it breathing slowly as she lay under the cover. She was breathing short fast breaths that she tried hard to control so it couldn’t hear her, but she knew whatever it was, knew she was there.

Nothing happened as she stayed perfectly still. She begged for it to end. She had never felt fear like this before. She almost hoped that it would kill her quickly and get it over with. The slow breathing became louder and she knew that it was only inches away from her. She slowly started to accept her fate as she just wanted it to be over, and no sooner had she pulled back the cover to look, she was overcome by a pain like no other she had ever felt before. Seconds later the fear seemed to leave her body, replaced by a numbness that spread throughout her. As she was dragged upwards from the ground, she struggled to fight for breath. As the moments passed she felt herself give up fighting. The pain then faded as she drifted away. The last thing she felt was falling to one side, and then nothing.

 

 

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