The house, according to the idle tongues of the locals, had stood there for as long as anybody could remember. It was an old and rickety building, rotting wooden beams festooned around the odd-looking structure that looked very much out of place amongst the considerably more modern and sleek buildings around it. Nobody ever entered it, in fact nearly everyone walked past the house on a day to day basis and completely ignored it. It was, to all intents and purposes, a historic defect in the otherwise tidy street that nobody could be bothered to remove.
And yet, tonight, a ten-year-old boy found himself standing at the front door of the building. Blake Harte had an irresistible urge to explore the unknown coasting through his veins.
He glanced up at the huge yellow sign, almost as old and out of place as the house itself, warning of the building being unsafe to enter and found himself smiling excitedly. What was being hidden here? What did the people who had put the sign there want to keep secret? Rumours around the classroom varied. Some whispers suggested the possibility that a witch lived there, who only came out when there was nobody to see her, before she set off on her broomstick to cast spells around the neighbourhood. A few of Blake’s classmates were convinced that the house was an entrance to another dimension, and that setting foot inside it would transport the intruder to a world very different to ours. The main form of consensus though was that the house was haunted by the spirits of all who had lived there and there were various murmurings of a headless man prowling the building, looking for his missing head that had been lost in a terrible accident, though Blake did not believe that for a second.
He glanced around as the cold wind whipped up around him. It whistled through the trees, creating the only sound in the otherwise silent street. Blake quickly leaned back and stared down the street in the direction of his house. The lights were all off, his parents fast asleep. The only movement he could see was from the open window of his bedroom on the ground floor, the curtains flapping in the wind, dragged out from where he had climbed out of the window. He had been planning this night all week.
Blake took a deep breath and put his hand on the door handle, then groaned in disappointment. The door was locked.
He stepped back and examined the building, his imagination trying to fathom a way in which he could gain access. As he stared up at the top of the house, a car suddenly roared around the corner of the street, its headlights illuminating him. He froze as the car drew nearer. If somebody he knew saw him sneaking around in the middle of the night, then his parents would soon find out about it and the last thing he wanted was one of his mum’s telling offs.
He leapt around the side of the house just before the driver of the car would have been able to see him and pressed his back against the wall, breathing heavily. Suddenly, the impact of what he was doing threatened to overcome him. He shuddered, half from the cold, half from the thought of what his parents would say if they knew what he was doing, but as the words of his best friend, Tommy Davis, crept into his head, calling him a chicken and daring him to find out what the house was hiding, determination flooded through him again. He had come this far, there was no going back now. He had to get into the house.
He crept around the side of the old building, searching for a way in. He climbed over a small wall and found himself in the garden, or rather, what presumably used to be the garden. Now, it was extremely overgrown and unsightly. Nettle beds were lit ominously by the street lights, surrounded by nests of dock leaves and tall dandelions. As he scrambled through the weeds, trying his best not to get stung, he spotted a small window on the other side of the yard. It was slightly ajar, though as Blake looked closer, he realised that the glass had come loose from the rotting wooden frames. He stood and stared at it for a few moments, debating whether he was really brave enough to try and crawl through. He thought about his other classmates who would give their right arm to be where he was now, then realised that very few of them would have been able to squeeze through the tiny window. Blake had always been teased about how skinny he was, but now, he was starting to see the advantages.
He took a deep breath and hauled himself up to the window. Thin as he was, it was still a struggle to get through the tiny gap. At one point, he stuck fast, his front half suddenly enveloped in darkness as his legs dangled helplessly behind him. He struggled, suddenly too scared to go any further, but by now it was too late to change direction. Even if he wanted to run home and forget all about this crazy idea, he would have to get into the house then climb back out again.
Blake put his hands on the wall and with a huge effort pushed himself through the rest of the window, landing on the floor in a heap, the sound of his body hitting the ground echoing slightly around the pitch-black house.
Blake lay on the floor for a few moments to check that he was the only noise in the house. The dust from the floor tickled his nose and as he stood up, he became aware of the musty smell that reminded him of the local church that his mum sometimes dragged him to on Sundays. His eyes slowly adjusted to the gloominess of the room, not that it gave him much more of a clue what was around him.
He slowly moved across the room, attempting not to trip over anything. As his hands blindly waved about, trying to find the wall, he became aware that he was walking through a puddle of something on the floor. At last, his hands clasped onto a small box protruding from the wall and what was unmistakably a button. He felt more scared now, almost hoping that the light would not work and that he would be left in the darkness, clueless about his surroundings. Then, he could go home, knowing that he had at least tried, but the task had been impossible due to the fact that he could not see anything. Maybe he would come back in the daylight. He could even bring Tommy with him then.
He pressed the light and was immediately blinded by the surprisingly bright light that suddenly flooded the room. Then, he opened his eyes. He immediately wished he had kept them closed.
He was standing in what looked to be a living room, but he was distracted from taking into much of his surroundings when he saw what the puddle on the ground actually was. It was a dark red colour beneath an old rocking chair in the centre of the room. Seated in the chair was an old woman, her face white and her eyes and mouth wide open as if in a silent scream. She was dressed in old, dirty looking clothing and sticking out her back was a large knife. Blake’s breath caught in his throat as he stared at the horrifying sight before him. The pool of blood on the floor glistened in the light beneath the body of the woman. Blake could not move, too terrified to try and force his legs to work.
Then, she cried out his name, her face remaining in her ghastly expression of terror.
Blake continued staring at her. He tried to run, but the floor seemed to be now gripping over his feet. The carpet swamped around his legs, holding him in place as the name rang out again.
Then, as the floor tightened its grip around his bottom half, the woman stood up, her face still contorted in a silence scream. She reached towards him, her mouth seeming to open even wider.
“No!” screamed Blake and put his arms up over his head as the woman leaned closer towards him, her hands flying forwards to grab him.
Then, just as she was about to grab hold of him, Blake Harte opened his eyes with a jolt.
Football fever has Harmschapel in its grip. After decades of failure, Harmschapel F.C has made it to the County Cup final. All hopes are resting on the team’s talented new striker Scott Jennings bringing victory to the village, but the match threatens to bring deep-rooted rivalries to the surface.
Detective Sergeant Blake Harte finds himself forced to sit through the tense final in case of any trouble. Though the last thing he expects is to be thrown into the midst of another impossible crime, he and the rest of Harmschapel Police are left baffled when Scott is murdered in the middle of the match.
With none of the other players anywhere near him at the time of his death, and a stadium full of witnesses that all seem as clueless as each other, Blake is left with very little to go on as to how a killer could have left Scott with a deep wound in his side without being seen.
As the suspect list grows, Blake discovers dark secrets that are desperate to remain hidden. And someone is watching him. Someone who knows Blake Harte and everything he holds dear. They have their own score to settle, and they are about to make the first move in a game that they intend for Blake to lose…
Learn more about author, Robert Innes:
Robert Innes is the author of The Blake Harte Mysteries – a series of head scratching and impossible crimes.
When he’s not trying to work out how to commit seemingly perfect murders and building up a worrying Google search history, Robert can be found at his local slimming group, wondering why eating three pizzas in the space of a week hasn’t resulted in a weight loss.
Since the creation of the Blake Harte mystery series in November 2016, each book has become a best seller in LGBT mystery both in the USA and the UK.