Interested in reading the new novel by J.S. Strange, Murder on the Rocks, a cosy murder mystery set in Cardiff, Wales? Take a read of this excerpt below, and then head over and buy yourself a copy, in ebook or paperback format!
Jordan stood outside the Lower New Inn with a burning cigarette in his hand. He did not smoke, but he wanted to observe the pub. He was opposite it, leaning against a wall as the barman through the window went about his job. He was wiping down the bar, stopping every now and then to serve a drink. People came and went, some on their own and others chatting. He pictured the CCTV footage, and in his head, James and Margaret left. He spotted the camera that had been on them outside.
The cigarette he held was a decoy. It was something for him to do whilst he made mental notes. He tried to imagine what James and Margaret had done afterwards. James had lived not far from here, as this pub was his local. Margaret had probably gone home with him that night. Had she planned to kill him then?
Yet Jordan didn’t know if Margaret was the killer. Kim had been involved and had left out some valuable information when questioned. The barman looked up, out of the window, his gaze falling on him. Jordan stared back, putting the cigarette to his lips. The young barman looked away.
His pitiful cover blown, Jordan stubbed out the cigarette and crossed the street. He pulled his long, draped black coat around him and entered the pub. There were considerably more people in here today. The necessities of family time yesterday were now gone. People were getting back to what they were comfortable with: their own time in a pub.
The barman looked at him as he came in. It was his job to clock people, to see who entered and who left. It was a good skill to have. Maybe one day he would be a detective.
Jordan walked to the bar and smiled. “Is Dylan about?”
He looked him up and down. He must have been late teens, probably nineteen, with pimples up his neck and a few on his chin. His hair was tangled and in need of cutting.
“What’s the name?”
“PI Jordan Jenner.”
His eyes widened. He had been briefed on his arrival. “I’ll get him now.”
The young man left, walking past an older man that shouted after him for another pint. He ignored him and disappeared out back. The man muttered about poor service, and Jordan avoided talking to him, in no desire to chat to a drunk about the supposed poor service of this place. The Lower New Inn had a ceiling that was made to look like an original feature, wooden beams seemingly supporting it in place. But judging by the fresh paint and the new slate tiles on the floor, Jordan’s scepticism kicked in. The pub was warm, a nice place to have as a local.
A few moments later, the pair came out.
“You want to have a word with your barman, Dylan!” the old man hissed.
“Pipe down, Amos.”
Amos seemed stunned. The barman uncomfortable. Dylan was unfazed.
“You go out back with this young man. I’ll take over for a while. Take as long as you need.”
Jordan nodded and walked past Amos, who looked him up and down, and went behind the bar.
Jordan stood in the hallway he had been in with Dylan. The young man pointed him into a small storage room that looked like Dylan’s office. CCTV monitors hung against the wall.
“I’m Kyle,” the barman said. “Dylan told me what you’re here for, and I’m not one hundred percent sure how I’m going to help you yet.”
“Don’t worry about that right now. I’m just here to chat, ask a few questions. There are no right or wrong answers.”
Kyle seemed placated by this. He visibly relaxed, his arms uncrossing. He pulled out a chair for Jordan to sit on and then perched on the end of the office table. Jordan saw a Liverpool FC calendar hung up on the wall behind him. On the table, there were Liverpool FC coasters. An old mug of tea sat on it. Jordan took out his phone and pressed record.
“You served James Fairview.”
“I serve a lot of people,” Kyle replied. Jordan said nothing, waiting for him to speak again. Keeping mute got people talking. “But yes, I served him the night he came in.”
“What did he have?”
“Didn’t you see that on the CCTV footage?” Kyle asked. Again, Jordan kept quiet. “He had a San Miguel, I believe. I don’t know. I serve a lot of people.”
Jordan nodded stiffly. “And who was he with?”
“A woman. Older woman…not sure what they were, you know, if they were together that way or not. They were just…together.”
“And did you see him talk to anyone else?”
“How could I? I wasn’t keeping tabs on the man. I forgot about him until he spewed everywhere and I had to clean it up after he had left.”
A glass smashed out in the bar, and people chorused. Kyle looked at the door.
“That can wait.”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
“Did you serve the older woman?”
“But she had a drink.”
“I didn’t serve her,” Kyle said. “But I did speak to her.”
Jordan eyed the recording. “You did?”
“Yeah. She came up to me earlier that night. Said her friend only drank from one glass.”
“You said you didn’t know if they were just friends or not.”
“But she said her friend?”
“I didn’t take that literally.” Kyle narrowed his eyes.
Kyle crossed his arms again. “She told me he only drank from one glass, and she gave it to me.”
“She gave you a glass?”
“It wasn’t one from the bar?”
“But you served his drink in it?”
“Yes,” Kyle said.
“Because we get fussy people in here, and you quickly learn to just do what they say, otherwise they argue at you. I’m not here to be shouted at. I’m here to earn some money and get the shift over as soon as possible.” Kyle eyed the tape recorder. “Will Dylan hear that?”
“No. This is just for me.”
“Okay.” Kyle breathed. “He’s pretty good, but yeah…”
“What glass was it?”
“It was a Guinness glass. She took it out from the bag she had. Told me to put it aside, and when he came up to order, he had to be served with that glass.”
“How did you know who the guy was?” Jordan asked.
“She pointed him out. He was stood chatting at the door to a woman.”
“Yeah. Short-ish woman, black hair.”
Kim immediately came to mind. “And how long was he chatting to this woman?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, he was just another punter. I didn’t keep tabs on him. I just put the glass on the back bar, told the people I was working with that the man by the door would order and wanted it in that glass, and then went to serve someone else. It just happened to be by chance that I served him when he came to the bar. I was free and my colleague wasn’t.”
“Did that glass move from where you put it?”
“No. It was where I left it.” Kyle’s eyebrow was arched. “Why?”
“Just a question.”
Kyle didn’t seem satisfied. “He was then throwing up. Stumbled a bit, but didn’t seem all that drunk. It was odd. I thought he might have the flu, or something like that.”
“And did he leave quietly?”
“No. He was shouting that he’d only had one and to ask the barman to prove it. The bouncer saw him as a disturbance so threw him out, along with the lady.”
“Did you see them again?”
“The woman came back.”
“No. The next morning.”
Jordan looked Kyle in the eyes. “Why?”
“Said she wanted to collect his glass. I was working, so I gave it to her. It had been in the wash.”
“What washers do you have?”
“Dishwashers. We don’t wash by hand. We’re not allowed to.”
“Understand,” Jordan said. “And she took the glass and left?”
“How did she look the next morning?”
“Pissed off, but I guess you would be if you’d been thrown out and caused an embarrassing scene,” Kyle said.
Jordan agreed. “Well, I think that is all I need to know.”
“I hope I’ve helped.”
“Yes, I think you have.”
As Jordan left the pub, he saw a hooded figure stood at his car. The person was lifting up his windscreen wiper, a note in their hand.
“Oi!” Jordan bellowed.
The person jumped. The windscreen wiper jutted up in the air. Jordan began to advance on his car and the person, who quickly scarpered, running away from the pub and Jordan.
The person’s trainers slapped the ground as they pounded away from him, but Jordan felt himself spurred on. He needed to know who was leaving those notes to him.
The person turned a corner and ran down a residential street. The person was a male, yet Jordan couldn’t place in his mind which one of the writers it could be. A car beeped its horn as the man ran out into the road. The man panicked, pausing ever so slightly, enough time for Jordan to gain on him.
With arms outstretched, Jordan grabbed the man, and with strength he didn’t know he had, he pushed the man onto the bonnet of the car. The engine underneath him ticked over, a heat rising up into Jordan’s face. The horn continued to blare, but Jordan didn’t even look at the driver of the vehicle.
The man he held was a young boy, probably in his early teens. He looked frozen, his eyes wide, freckles over his face. “Get off me, mate! Get off me!”
“What were you doing at my car?”
“I don’t know!”
Jordan shook him, and the engine turned off.
“I don’t know! Honestly! Some woman paid me fifty quid to leave a note on your car. I was just doing a job!”
“What’s going on?” It was a man’s voice. Jordan looked up to see the driver of the car had gotten out.
Jordan realised he was gripping a minor by the collar. He stood back, letting go of the youth. Before Jordan could ask any more questions, the youth ran, not bothering to look back, the note still clasped in his hands.
“Did he take something from you?”
Jordan blinked, wondering what had happened. “Yeah. Yeah, something like that.”
The boy disappeared around the corner, fifty pounds richer and the note still in his hands, never to be read by the right recipient.