Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

It was my companion who actually discovered the body: 'What's that?' she said.

It looked like a clump of dirty washing in the dark under the trees. Just a loose jumble of rubbish, as though someone passing had emptied a bin-bag of old clothes into the thick undergrowth well beneath the trees. Weeds and nettles had been flattened under the weight of cotton and fleeces, some shreds of material caught by the brambles.

But there was something different about this pile of clothes, and as we drew nearer, my companion gave a little gasp. Or maybe it was me.

The clothes may well have been discarded, but so was Rick. Because he still inhabited them.

That was why Megan gave her shocked, 'Oh, my God!' and that was what I would tell the police later. She found him, not me.

There is, I believe, a more or less unwritten rule that someone who discovers a dead body once is fine, but someone who makes a habit of finding them is likely to attract a considerable amount of attention from the local constabulary. I had discovered a dead body the previous year, and I really didn't want to gain a reputation as always being in the vicinity when an unpleasant death occurred, or to have the police wasting time investigating my life and interests. I have enough on my plate just trying to afford the electric bill.

However, this discovery had a similar impact on me.

It was she who first saw him, but it was shocking to me because I had spoken to him only a couple of days before, and he had mentioned suicide. That, I think, meant it hit me much harder than it did her. Not that she wasn't knocked back by it, you understand. It's just that I felt guilty; my first thought was, I should have realized he was serious.

Yes, I really felt bad about his death, the poor lad.

Maybe it was just that: guilt; then again, perhaps it was because he was so young. A lad of seventeen or eighteen has all his life ahead of him. It should be carefully guarded and hoarded, not thrown away like, in this case, a pile of old clothing. Rick Parrow was to all intents and purposes still a boy. He was spotty, lanky, like a teenager still shooting upwards, good looking in a sort of pasty, skinny, over-tall sort of way.

And now he was dead.

I suppose What's that? is the sort of comment you hear every day but, even so, this was one of those occasions when it sounded wrong. Her voice had a slight tremble to it. It was not the words that mattered so much as the tone she used, as though she had already had a premonition.

As, I suppose, I did too.


CHAPTER ONE
Monday 15th May 

The last months had been hard. After the excitement of the previous year, life had returned to some kind of normal. I had tried to put behind me the sheer terror of my brief sojourn in Devon. I wanted to forget the county, the dead body, and all the unsavoury characters I'd met, and tried to return to paying the bills by the careful application of paint to canvas. Yes, I was gaining a reputation as a portrait painter that's good, right? Nick Morris, world famous artist.

Wrong. I was merely a noted painter of cats.

I have nothing against cats per se. In my time I have owned a couple, and both were friendly, amiable fellows who would happily spring on to my keyboard when I was typing, or walk idly over a wet palette and leave colourful paw prints all over the carpet (thank you, Sophie). But there is something about other cats that leaves me battered and scratched. My latest scar that day was a long, itchy and ragged line almost from wrist to elbow, thanks to a feline felon called Suki. That really was far too gentle a name for the vicious brute. Every time I saw her, she launched herself at me and not with friendly affection in her green eyes; only resentment, hatred, and the sort of concentration I daresay she would show when stalking an errant fledgling freshly fallen from the nest.

Suki was the sort of cat who would roll over in a display of friendliness to permit her stomach to be rubbed, only to suddenly launch four paws'-worth of claws like so many sackloads of flick-knives, and try to eviscerate the poor sap who had trusted her. Yes, that was how my arm, and shirt, had become ripped.

I did not like Suki.
...

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Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

It was my companion who actually discovered the body: 'What's that?' she said.

It looked like a clump of dirty washing in the dark under the trees. Just a loose jumble of rubbish, as though someone passing had emptied a bin-bag of old clothes into the thick undergrowth well beneath the trees. Weeds and nettles had been flattened under the weight of cotton and fleeces, some shreds of material caught by the brambles.

But there was something different about this pile of clothes, and as we drew nearer, my companion gave a little gasp. Or maybe it was me.

The clothes may well have been discarded, but so was Rick. Because he still inhabited them.

That was why Megan gave her shocked, 'Oh, my God!' and that was what I would tell the police later. She found him, not me.

There is, I believe, a more or less unwritten rule that someone who discovers a dead body once is fine, but someone who makes a habit of finding them is likely to attract a considerable amount of attention from the local constabulary. I had discovered a dead body the previous year, and I really didn't want to gain a reputation as always being in the vicinity when an unpleasant death occurred, or to have the police wasting time investigating my life and interests. I have enough on my plate just trying to afford the electric bill.

However, this discovery had a similar impact on me.

It was she who first saw him, but it was shocking to me because I had spoken to him only a couple of days before, and he had mentioned suicide. That, I think, meant it hit me much harder than it did her. Not that she wasn't knocked back by it, you understand. It's just that I felt guilty; my first thought was, I should have realized he was serious.

Yes, I really felt bad about his death, the poor lad.

Maybe it was just that: guilt; then again, perhaps it was because he was so young. A lad of seventeen or eighteen has all his life ahead of him. It should be carefully guarded and hoarded, not thrown away like, in this case, a pile of old clothing. Rick Parrow was to all intents and purposes still a boy. He was spotty, lanky, like a teenager still shooting upwards, good looking in a sort of pasty, skinny, over-tall sort of way.

And now he was dead.

I suppose What's that? is the sort of comment you hear every day but, even so, this was one of those occasions when it sounded wrong. Her voice had a slight tremble to it. It was not the words that mattered so much as the tone she used, as though she had already had a premonition.

As, I suppose, I did too.


CHAPTER ONE
Monday 15th May 

The last months had been hard. After the excitement of the previous year, life had returned to some kind of normal. I had tried to put behind me the sheer terror of my brief sojourn in Devon. I wanted to forget the county, the dead body, and all the unsavoury characters I'd met, and tried to return to paying the bills by the careful application of paint to canvas. Yes, I was gaining a reputation as a portrait painter that's good, right? Nick Morris, world famous artist.

Wrong. I was merely a noted painter of cats.

I have nothing against cats per se. In my time I have owned a couple, and both were friendly, amiable fellows who would happily spring on to my keyboard when I was typing, or walk idly over a wet palette and leave colourful paw prints all over the carpet (thank you, Sophie). But there is something about other cats that leaves me battered and scratched. My latest scar that day was a long, itchy and ragged line almost from wrist to elbow, thanks to a feline felon called Suki. That really was far too gentle a name for the vicious brute. Every time I saw her, she launched herself at me and not with friendly affection in her green eyes; only resentment, hatred, and the sort of concentration I daresay she would show when stalking an errant fledgling freshly fallen from the nest.

Suki was the sort of cat who would roll over in a display of friendliness to permit her stomach to be rubbed, only to suddenly launch four paws'-worth of claws like so many sackloads of flick-knives, and try to eviscerate the poor sap who had trusted her. Yes, that was how my arm, and shirt, had become ripped.

I did not like Suki.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...