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DEATH IS FOR THE DYING # A JOHN HANDFUL NOVEL 3 Archie Andrews tries the new cologne his new girlfriend gave him for his birthday. He goes out to get some food for his birthday party and is later found dead near the vicinity of his apiary. With no clues, no suspects and no idea how he died, the Suffolk Constabulary call their consulting lateral thinking private detective to assist them in their investigation. However, John Handful has a conflict of interests. The new girlfriend of the victim happens to be his ex, Kimberley Ashlyn Gere.


Chapter ONE

CHAPTER ONE

DEATH IS FOR THE DYING – ANDREW HIXSON
7
CHAPTER ONE
The weather mirrored my mood.
It was raining. Water poured from the grey skies and my wipers couldn’t clear the windscreen quick enough. I was part of the barely moving traffic along the coastal road.
Traffic cones forced me to merge into the left lane and as I crept past an ambulance and police directing traffic around a badly mangled van, my dark thoughts were interrupted by my mobile ringing.
“What time are we meeting?” I heard a familiar voice say through the hands-free.
“In about ten minutes,” I replied, “once I get through this traffic.”
“It’s the new restaurant isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” I said. “It specialises in fish dishes.”
“Okay. See you there.”
The line went dead.
I didn’t get to the restaurant until almost twelve-thirty, but my dinner guest still hadn’t arrived.
I sat on a bar stool reading the signs on the walls, the good-natured reminders to bar clientele not to ask for credit, not to shoot the pianist and to be good or be gone. The only other customers were two girls at a table frenetically pressing the buttons of their mobile phones and two boys in deep discussions about the possible outcome of the football season. The Eagles were playing over the loudspeakers. I checked my watch again and had a wager with myself that Kimberley Ann Gere would be standing at the door in exactly ten minutes time. I felt the crackle of tension I always felt at seeing her again. A cosy chat about the lives we were leading now. Or to be more precise: the life she was leading now without
DEATH IS FOR THE DYING – ANDREW HIXSON
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me. In the last six months, I didn’t know whose loss had been greater until I saw her standing by the door. The waiter’s fell upon her like Elizabethan courtiers, removing her coat and putting her small branded shopping bag in a safe place. She is a beautiful woman, so good service is guaranteed but I had hoped she wouldn’t look so good.
She walked over to me and our cheeks touched. I made sure I let go first.
“Sorry, I’m late,” she said, apologetically. “I had to pick up a present for Archie. It’s his birthday tomorrow.”
“You’re looking great,” I said, ignoring the mentioning of his name and heard that I should have cleared my throat first.
“Don’t,” she said.
I knew exactly what her ‘Don’t’ meant. Don’t start, don’t be embarrassing, we’re not going there. She had said it softly, it was practically inaudible, yet it felt like a stinging slap.
“You’ve lost weight,” she said.
I patted my stomach. “I’m trying my best.”
“What table have we got?”
“The waiter will come and get us.”
She sat down on the stool opposite me and ordered a prosecco. I ordered another mineral water.
“Not drinking?”
“I have a meeting with a client this afternoon,” I said. “So, how are you doing?”
“Fine. I’m good. Charlie misses you.”
“Daft dog,” I exclaimed, with a weak smile.
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“He misses you. Misses his walks.”
I looked at her, dumbfounded. “That’s not my fault.”
“No, it’s not,” she said, taking her drink from the barman.
I sipped my mineral water. “How has Charlie taking to his new master?”
“His name is Archie,” Kimberley said with a sigh. “Charlie just growls at him.”
I experienced a sweet tingle of satisfaction.
“Doesn’t like Archie keeping bees.”
“I hope he’s not tending to his apiary and ignoring you,” I said and regretted it the moment I had said it. But instead of getting angry, Kimberley sighed.
“It wasn’t that you ignored me, John. You became obsessed with your job. What drives you isn’t love or responsibility. It’s not even personal ambition. It’s anger. And the desire for revenge. And that’s not right, John. It’s not healthy. It shouldn’t be like that. You know that’s what was happening.”
Yes, I thought, I knew.
“And this Archie is driven by the right things?”
“I think so, yes.”
She sipped her prosecco.
“It’s his birthday today,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I’ve just bought his present.”
That explained the designer shopping bag.
“Wish him a happy birthday from me,” I said without feeling
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“John?” She said.
Something in her inflection made me tense up.
“Archie has asked me to marry him.”
“So soon?” I ran my tongue over my palate in an attempt to find moisture. “You haven’t known each other long.”
“Long enough. We’re planning to get married once his divorce comes through.”
The remainder of the dinner turned out to be an ordeal. I had watched Kimberley’s mouth speaking, drinking prosecco, chewing fish and devouring me as she told me her plans for the future. She asked whether I had met anyone. I had answered no, even though the pathologist Dr Kira Reed had been very supportive and we were going out for dinner that night.
I had seen the waiter pouring wine into the glasses on the adjacent table and for one crazy moment I had been on the point of tearing the bottle out of his hands and putting it to my mouth. Instead we had agreed to go halves on the bill and I said I would look after Charlie, while they went away on their honeymoon.
We parted amicably outside the restaurant and I watched her walk away in the opposite direction, noticing once more the small bag containing Archie’s birthday present.

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ANDREW HIXSON

Stowmarket, united_kingdom

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