Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

VL 4 Traditonal detectives

As you’re probably aware by now, Book 2 in my Jake Talbot Investigates series, Saving Anna, is due for release REALLY soon. I’m so excited by the approaching launch of my new book that I thought it would be great to offer book 1 for free between 9th – 13th November. Grab your copy!

This is a terrific opportunity to meet British Detective Jake Talbot and join him in unravelling the mystery of a romance that crosses the boundaries of time. Why doesn’t anyone want young Frankie Hayward to visit an old woman named Lilly? Why is the Ministry of Defence interested in Frankie? Can Jake manage to set aside the unhappy memories of Christmas past, and keep working through the festive season: or will he crack under the strain?

Find out in Visiting Lilly


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Billy the Kid is the one on the left

Billy the Kid is the one on the left

Every story has heroes and villains, the good guys and the bad guys, the ones we want to win, and the ones we know will be defeated. In books and movies the distinction is usually made pretty clear cut by the writer showing us that one is the goodie, the other the baddie. Sometimes the boundaries are blurred and we find the good guy being treated as a bad guy, one example being Harrison’s Ford’s character Dr Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Kimble is accused of murdering his wife, resulting in US Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, wonderfully portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, hunting him down, determined to catch a killer. In the film we know Kimble is innocent of this crime because we see scenes from his point of view, we become insiders, people who have witnessed the truth of the matter.

In real life that insider knowledge is denied to us. If we have a personal friendship with someone, then we might believe that we have some understanding of their motivation for a particular action. If they are a stranger to us, then we rely on newspaper reports, television news reels and hearsay, but these are easily coloured by sensationalism. This distortion can become even further exaggerated if the individual we’re judging died many years ago and has become a legend.

Billy the Kid playing croquet

The new photo of Billy the Kid playing croquet – courtesy of Kagin’s

Ever since a child I’ve been fascinated by the outlaw Billy the Kid, also known as William H Bonny amongst many other aliases, and originally named Henry McCarty. During my childhood he repeatedly appeared in westerns, as a youth lurking in the shadows, propping up a bar, being told he could only drink milk. ‘Is that the kid?’ some gunslinger would ask. ‘I hear that Sheriff Pat Garrett’s in town.’ The characters were clearly defined, Billy the Kid as an outlaw, Pat Garrett as the cop who was after him. We know who’s supposed to win.

So, why do we root for Billy the Kid? Is there a large question mark concerning his guilt or innocence? Or, do we simply feel empathy because he’s referred to as ‘kid’ and therefore must be young and less likely to do bad things? Movie makers err towards portraying him as a sympathetic character, and not a hardened criminal. He’s an outlaw, a man on the run, and just like Dr Kimble, a fugitive. The distinction between the two men is that we have never been given an insider scene for Billy the Kid, we don’t know precisely what happened that set him on a desperate trail.

The recent discovery, and verification, of a new photo of Billy the Kid set me on a trail of investigation. Was this guy a hero or a villain? Firstly I researched his date of birth and set up a noon time birth chart for him. I would go and read what others said about him later, after I’d made my own assessment of his character.

Billy the Kid potrait

The only previously known photo of Billy the Kid

Henry McCarty was born on 17th September 1859 in New York. (no birth time available) Early on that day the Moon is in Taurus, while from approximately 6:30 pm it’s in Gemini, closely conjunct his natal Uranus. This change in the Moon sign makes for two very different characters, but I prefer the earlier Taurus Moon, because when I did read up on him I learnt that he spoke fluent Spanish, and the earlier time places his natal Mercury conj. Mars in the 9th house, which would make him quick to pick up a new language. It also makes him an overall nicer person, steady and loyal; while Moon conj. Uranus would have him dropping his friends as quickly as a hot potato. I rather like the idea of him being a nice person, after all, I’ve been captivated by his story since childhood.

The new photo shows Billy playing croquet, allegedly after a friend’s wedding. This is normal stuff, this makes him a good guy. In his birth chart he has Jupiter in Cancer, showing how he likes and respects the concept of family and a sense of belonging.

So, where’s the villain in him? Is it there? Well, he has four planets in Virgo which would make him someone who is very intelligent, and extremely precise. He has Sun conj. Venus in Virgo giving him a desire to dress up smart, and to be clean and tidy. It can also give someone a slight stature, and records say that Billy wasn’t very tall, hence his nickname of ‘the kid.’ But, what’s this? He has Mercury conj. Mars in Virgo, which is maybe where the trouble begins. He’d have had a cutting tongue, but not necessarily a quick temper; however, it would make him extremely fast to draw a gun when angered, and he’d be highly accurate. This is turning him into Billy the Precision Kid. With Pluto in Taurus trine this Mars/Mercury conjunction, he’s someone who would brew and smoulder, build up hatred deep inside, then react when pushed too far.

Billy also has Uranus square Mercury/Mars conj. which would make him a risk taker. If he were alive today he’d ride a fast motorcycle, weave in and out of traffic at speed, but never fall off, never make a mistake. This square could make him quick to flare up, but more likely when speed is the challenge, such as a horse race or a competition to see who can shoot six tin-cans faster than the other. It could also make him impatient, but more with his tongue than his fists.

During my research I read various accounts of how Billy the Kid first came to kill a man, Frank P. Cahill. The consensus of opinion is that Billy went into a bar to do some gambling (he’d be good with cards and numbers, so probably won often – which might make him unpopular). Over the game of cards he gets into an argument with Cahill, reports suggesting that this was not a new issue and that Cahill frequently bullied Billy and physically assaulted him. On this fateful occasion, Cahill, a big man, knocks Billy down and straddles him, continuing to punch. Fearing for his life, Billy manages to draw his gun and shoots Cahill in the stomach, a wound he ends up dying from.

This story about Cahill’s behaviour, how he repeatedly picked on Billy and beat him up, paints Billy in the light of a man who was forced to take action to protect himself, and had reached the end of his tether with a bully. Billy was pushed too far. Billy was quick on the draw and didn’t think twice about the consequences of his actions, all he wanted was for that bully to stop thrashing him.

It also backs up my assessment that Billy has Moon Taurus. He’s stubborn. He kept going back to that darn bar, refusing to let a bully control his life. If he was born later in the day, with Moon conj. Uranus he’d more likely have had entirely the opposite reaction. He’d have walked away. If someone kept picking on him he’d have turned right around and found a different bar to gamble in, found new friends. He wouldn’t have hung around.

None of this casts Billy the Kid as a hero or a villain, but if I were writing an insider scene, something that only the reader gets to share, I’d show a conversation between Billy and his friends. They’d beg him not to go into Atkins saloon, tell him that they’d seen that bully Cahill go in there earlier, warn him to gamble elsewhere. Billy would, of course, have responded that no man was going to intimidate him into not going where he wanted to go. If Cahill attacked him then he’d sidestep, he was quick on his feet, nimble like a dancer. I’d then change scene to inside the saloon, show Cahill talking with his buddies, telling them how was going to thrash that kid if he showed his face today. As we read we beg Billy not to walk through those swing doors into that bar, but the stubborn youngster pushes them open, steps inside, and an outlaw is born.

Billy the Kid

Birth chart for Billy the Kid erected for 12:30pm

Here are som great places to research Billy the Kid.





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Being Richard by Toni Allen is a contemporary paranormal thriller about an immortal whose quiet life is turned upside down when he has to choose yet another new identity. He’s used to changing his name, becoming someone else before suspicions are raised because he doesn’t appear to be growing any older. This time it’s different. People have been watching him, studying him, and now they want to rule his life, force him to become Richard; even though he’s already rejected Richard Ridley as a totally unsuitable identity.

Buy Being Richard for Kindle

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Chapter 1

The little ones were always easy to spot. A vigil of small black headstones, tucked away at the back of the cemetery, their teddies and trains weather beaten; the gold faded. Twilight and rain drops shrouded them in pathos, but come dusk the solar lights would flicker on, permanent candles used as protective sprites to ward demons away from these precious spirits. Such short lives, their pasts a heartbeat in time, their names etched in granite to live on forever. If I was lucky and could find someone suitable I would be able to help him live on far longer than his grieving parents ever imagined.

I wasn’t interested in the girls; and knew to avoid the ones with cherubs and angels. It was also best to avoid the ones with recent gifts. Steven Johnson may well have passed over in 1975 but the plastic Christmas tree; that would have endlessly chimed out silent night until its batteries ran down, warned that someone still cared, and cherished him.

A train rumbled past, heading south out of Ash Station having dumped its weary commuters back to Surrey. They would dice with the barriers and tail back of irritated drivers, all walk home fast to be away from the wind and threat of further rain. Their perfume and after-shave hitched a ride on the wind and dropped its heady scent on the wet grass. I could envisage the women click clacking past men in suits, high heels dodging puddles as they strained their backs to stay proud and upright while carrying heavy briefcases in the pursuit of equality. The men would duck their heads down and plough on, up the road and past the front of the church, searching for a key to a front door, and home, and comfort.

I turned back to my task and spotted Richard Ridley; wondered if he was a good enough contender for my attention. Born in 1979 he’d died three months later, much loved and missed by his devoted parents; who could only afford stone and not tough granite. I crouched to read the inscription. Lichen painted it green and although he was age appropriate I didn’t feel like sharing my life with someone that sad. It felt sad. He felt sad. Not that I was sad, that was an emotion I had long since learnt to set aside. No, the boy had no history, no love, no… I sighed and jotted down his details. He was perfect.

When the birth certificate arrived a week later I savoured the opening by sitting outside under the apple tree with a mug of coffee. I enjoyed this type of ritual, the peace and quiet of birdsong, a single candle in a glass jar on the rickety table, and the bright morning sunshine dappling patterns through the leaves. The wooden chair was damp and wetted through my trousers, but that didn’t matter. The piece of paper inside the envelope was what mattered.

Leaning my elbows on the table I spun the A5 envelope round and round between my fingers, thinking. I knew I wasn’t going to like him before I had even opened it, but it was just one of those things I had to get used to living with. My coffee was getting cold so I drank half of it before easing open the envelope and reading the document. Perhaps I had misjudged poor Richard. His father had been one David Ridley, salesman. Now how vague was that? What kind of salesman? Cars? Insurance? His mother had been Elizabeth Ridley, nee Wilkinson, housewife, which meant that David had achieved enough prosperity through sales for his wife not to have to work.

On the surface they appeared to be nice, respectable people, but I had learnt never to accept life at face value. Oh how I wish I had. Mistrust, and more than a little curiosity, egged me to go against my better judgement and do what I had always promised myself not to do. I went to look at their house.

Before going I spent some time online researching what I could of Richard’s family tree. It was always difficult investigating living people, and generally drew a blank; so I was shocked to discover that Elizabeth, or Lizzie as she liked to be known, had died less than a year after Richard. The how of her departure from this mortal plane bothered me, so I ordered a death certificate. Father David might still be alive, and that bothered me too. People survived longer and longer these days, so I guessed he might be in his mid to late fifties by now, which was really no age at all.

They had lived a short distance from St Peter’s in Ash so I parked my Land Rover opposite the church and walked up the road and across the railway line. It wasn’t very far, but by the time I stood outside the house street lights were already coming on and curtains being closed against another damp evening. Something about the stillness of the place made me shiver. I turned my collar up and tried not to look as if I was staring into the abandoned cottage. At one time it might have been pretty, those straggly roses around the door abundant with fragrant blooms, only now it appeared deserted, the wrought iron gate rusted on broken hinges. I really don’t need to know this, I told myself, and turned to walk away.

A light flashing on in one of the small top windows made me glance up, but it went out as soon as my head shifted. Was I being watched? For a moment I stared up at the glass and half imagined that I saw a shape move beyond the reflected tungsten of the street light. Land registry, check out who owns the place; get your facts straight. I made a mental note to follow it up as soon as I got back. Head down I went to join the bright lights and throng of commuters spilling out of Ash station. There was little point in hurrying to move my car, the traffic being jammed and slow moving, so I broke another rule and went to amuse myself by saying hello to Richard Ridley again before going home.

“You’re proving to be more trouble than you’re worth,” I said, squatting down to brush stray grass away from his headstone. The girl next door, Kimberley Jones, had elbowed into his territory, her mourners filling his space with dusky pink chrysanthemums. “What’s wrong with putting them on her grave?” I asked, lifted the pots and placed them in a straight line from her head down to her toes. “You’ll respect her, but not him.”

Suddenly angered I spat on her grave. “Leave Richard be,” I said harshly. “He’s mine.”

My fingers trembled as I ran them around my lips. It was wrong to become emotionally involved. Control yourself. You don’t want it all starting again. You’ve put all that behind you. I stood and bowed my farewells.

Maybe I wasn’t as composed as I believed I was by the time I passed the church’s Norman entrance because the Rector loomed out of the shadows saying, “Can I help you?”

Lights flashed on as I tripped the motion sensors. Blinded I shielded my eyes and gaped at his silhouette, an anonymous shape that could identify me.

“I’m fine,” I said, continuing to shield my face from recognition.

“If you’re troubled…”

“No…no, I’m fine, thanks.” I hurried off, ducked down the lane opposite, and didn’t drive my car away until I was certain that he wasn’t going to associate me with the vehicle.

Back home I tried to calm down. As I filled the kettle my entire body was shaking. It was happening again. I was waking up. Fear, anxiety, anger… Something or someone was waking me up. I dreaded the signs. How long was it since my last episode? I couldn’t recall, didn’t like to think about it. Drink coffee, focus, stay calm.

I settled down for an evening of research on the internet. Land registry. Ancestry. Supermarket shopping. I could stay home. I didn’t have to go out. Groceries could be delivered.

“I’ll need to get a 4x if you order again mate,” the delivery driver had said last time. “That track is treacherous.”

Yes, the lane was rutted, and narrow, and liable to moderate flooding in winter. It was unlit too, so I chose an early delivery time, made another coffee and hummed and harred over what I might like to eat for the next week or so.

Lizzie Ridley’s death certificate upset me. I’d run out of milk and the drive into Farnham to buy some more was supposed to be a distraction, not a stressful ordeal made worse by a road traffic accident that blocked the whole of Hinckley’s Corner. Trapped in traffic there was nothing to do but sit in my car and think. Lizzie had committed suicide. She’d hung herself. What, I asked myself, had made her feel so desperate? The question went round and round in my head, like one of those revolving doors that always made me giddy. The loss of her son? It was the only answer I had… for now. The car behind tooted its horn and made me jump. My windows had steamed up and I hadn’t noticed the police officer waving me on.

He tapped on my window as I edged forwards, beckoned me to wind it down. “Keep alert; we don’t need any more trouble. Get your blowers on and clear that screen.”

I nodded my agreement, made a show of flicking the switch on the vents, and wiped the glass with my hand at the same time to show willing.

“Has this heap got an MOT?” He was already speaking into his radio so I don’t know why he bothered to ask. These days he would have the answer quicker than I could respond.

“Yes, officer, squeaky clean.”

“Stay in the left hand lane,” he said, and jerked his hand, impatient with me now that he didn’t have any sport.

By the time I got home to Elstead I was exhausted. Eventually I’d paid twice the price for milk at a corner shop, and decided that in future I should avoid going into town. Towns, traffic, horns, noise… it was all getting on top of me, shattering my nerves. I lit a candle and took it, and my coffee, out to sit under the apple tree. It was so peaceful here, as it had always been. I closed my eyes and listened to the silence. Lizzie Ridley had hung herself three months after the death of her baby boy. She had been forty two years old. I didn’t like the echo of my own life in his.

“You’ll have to go Richard,” I said out loud, and opened my eyes in time to witness the candle blow out in the still night air.

The postman never came down the lane. Years ago I’d erected a lockable metal box for him to leave my letters in, so I either took a stroll down to fetch them, or, if feeling particularly lazy, drove down. It was wonderful walking along early in the morning, smelling the dew, the freshness, and in winter counting the cobwebs. Now he barely delivered before eleven, so unless there was anything I was keen to receive, I left it until the following day, and continued with my early morning routine.

I’d already given up on Richard and was eagerly awaiting Mark Wellbeck’s birth certificate. I’d found him over at Farnham, didn’t much like the name, but had a much better feel about my involvement with him altogether. It was about mid-day, the sun was shining, and a cluster of snow-drops hinted at warmer days to come. I was happy and whistling, a robin joining in as it hopped along the hedgerow keeping me company. I took out my key and unlocked the box. Disappointment. It was empty. I sighed and fastened it up again.

“You looking for this?” The man’s voice made me jump and I turned, startled. He was holding an official envelope, but not the type a certificate was sent in.

I shook my head.

“This is the post box for Woodman’s Cottage.” It was a statement, not a question.

I nodded. He was middle aged, maybe forty, his beige weather proof coat and flat cap making him appear older. His eyes were brown and shrewd and staring at me with such intensity it hurt.

“I told the postman I was calling on you, so he gave it to me,” he said, and read the front of the envelope. “It’s illegal that, you know, handing someone’s post over to someone else.”

I shrugged.

“Unless, of course, you show him one of these.” The man drew a wallet out of his pocket, flipped it open and artfully caught the light with his ID so that it winked in my face.

I swallowed hard and smiled. My throat was uncommonly dry.

“Richard Ridley,” he said, tipping the envelope onto its side so that the passport slid out into his hand.

Shit, I couldn’t even remember ordering that passport.

“Inspector Hawkins,” he said, tucking his wallet away and handing me the passport. “Special Investigations Department, SID for short.” He motioned down the lane. “Perhaps you’d like to make me one of those coffees you’re so fond of, while we have a little chat.”

Creasing the passport open with my thumb I peered inside. That was the photo I’d used on Julian’s passport, and I never used the same photograph twice, never. The clothes were outmoded and would immediately cause suspicion. Someone, with a lot of influence, had ordered the passport on my behalf.

My hackles rose as Inspector Hawkins said, “How about that little chat?”

I nodded.

“That’s if you do speak,” he said, and laughed, and made sure he was half a step behind me, so that I couldn’t run away.

You can buy Being Richard for Kindle or as an ebook.

Buy Being Richard for Kindle

Buy Being Richard on iTunes

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