Atmosphere (The Blake Harte Mysteries Book 9) by Robert Innes

Excerpt

“Tell me about the woman.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Well, what does she look like?”

Blake Harte leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling with a sigh.

“Old. She was an old woman. White hair, wrinkled face, shrivelled up old mouth.”

“And it’s the exact same woman from the events we spoke about when you were a child?”

Linda Forrest scribbled something onto her clipboard and then looked back up at Blake.

“Yes,” replied Blake. “It’s the same woman from when I was a kid because it’s the same nightmare I’ve had ever since I was a kid.”

Linda nodded as she continued writing. “And when these dreams started again, how long had it been since the last one?”

“When I was at university, quite a few years ago.”

“And since then?”

Blake clasped his hands together in his lap and wrung them together slightly. He absolutely hated discussing the nightmares in such detail as this.

“Since I had the first one a few months ago, I’ve been experiencing them at least once a week. Sometimes twice. I even had one last night and apparently I woke up my partner, because I was crying out, which is impressive as normally he can sleep through an earthquake.”

There was silence for a few moments as Linda finished writing her notes and then placed the clipboard on the table between them.

Blake studied her. She was a dumpy woman with kind looking blue eyes. He could not help but wonder if she was a grandmother, because Blake could imagine that she would be incredibly good at it. She had just the right level of calm serenity about her but at the same time appeared ever so slightly stern. Overall, he conceded, she seemed to be the right sort of person to be a therapist.

“Okay,” Linda said. “Let’s talk about the actual dream itself. What happens?”

Blake shuffled in his seat but said nothing. The room they were in was hot, and he could feel sweat trickling down his back, similar to how he felt whenever the nightmare woke him up.

“Come on, Blake,” Linda pressed gently. “I know it’s difficult, but I need you to tell me what happens.”

Blake took a deep breath. “It’s like I said. When I was ten, I broke into an old house on my street. It had been abandoned for years, but me being a young tearaway, I had to explore it. I had a mate that I used to have dares with, Tommy, and he dared me to go and find out what was going on inside the house.”

“And nobody had been in or out of this house for years?” Linda asked him, leaning forward.

“Not that I saw,” Blake replied, shuffling slightly in his seat. “Though, I was only ten. My parents always said that it may as well have been knocked down as they had lived there for years before I was even born, and they had never seen anybody.”

“So, you get inside the house?”

“Yes,” Blake continued. “The whole place was locked up and the only way inside was through a tiny window around the back of the house. I was a skinny child; I mean I wouldn’t call myself exactly large now, but as a kid, I was like a rake. Even I struggled squeezing through it, but I eventually found myself inside the house. I wish I’d taken the difficulty in getting in as a sign to stop being so stupid, but what can I say? I was ten.”

“Okay,” Linda said. “And what did you find once you had managed to get inside?”

Blake sighed again as his eyes landed on the large fish tank in the corner. There was a small fish fluttering weakly around the surface of the water, looking as if it was in its last moments of its life.

“Blake?”

“The room was dark,” Blake said quietly. “Pitch black, actually. I had to scramble around to find the light switch. Then, when I finally turned it on, there she was.”

“And what was she doing?”

“Not a lot,” Blake replied dryly. “She was dead. She was sitting in a rocking chair with a knife sticking in her back. There was a pool of blood beneath the chair. And I couldn’t move. I was so terrified staring at her face. It was like someone had frozen her in the middle of the most horrified scream imaginable. I mean, she had just been stabbed in the back, so I guess it’s understandable, but it was the most horrific thing I’d ever seen.”

“So, you were frozen, in your mind trapped, unable to escape with this traumatic sight in front of you?” Linda clarified.

“Basically, yes. After what must have only been about a minute or so, but it felt like hours, I finally managed to get back the use of my legs and got out of there. Then I ran home and my mum called the police.”

“You’re a policeman now, aren’t you?” Linda asked. “Do you think this event had anything to do with that?”

Blake had wondered that himself over the years. “No, I don’t think so. Though, being a police detective did mean that I was able to find out details about the case a few years later.”

“And what did you discover?”

“Not a great deal,” Blake replied. “I know they found out her name was Julia Watkins. She was, according to her pension book, eighty-seven, and they also discovered that she had been squatting in the house for months. I suppose it’s unavoidable with old abandoned buildings. But as for her death, it was never solved. The only way in and out was through that tiny window that even I had difficulty climbing through. Other than that, the house was completely sealed.”

Linda scratched the back of her head as she consulted her notes. “It’s the sort of thing you’ve become quite used to, haven’t you? These sorts of impossible events.”

Blake shrugged. “I suppose so. I have been kept busy since moving to Harmschapel, that’s certainly true.”

“A lot of murders?”

“I’ve had my fair share,” Blake conceded. “Not that I didn’t get them when I worked in Sale.”

“That’s Sale in the Manchester area, where you used to live before moving to Harmschapel?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve seen a lot in the papers about some of the cases you’ve had to deal with since moving to the area,” Linda said thoughtfully. “ And of course, you helped bring a serial killer to justice in the earlier days of your career.”

Blake shuddered at the memory. “Yeah. Thomas Frost.”

“I read about him,” Linda said, nodding. “He strangled a number of women in the Manchester area and you were the officer that helped put him behind bars?”

“Probably the closest I’ve come to experiencing evil,” Blake replied quietly. “The man is a psychopath. I had the unpleasant experience of meeting him again not so long ago. He hadn’t changed.”

“All in all, that must be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re dealing with bodies. Murdered bodies at that.”

Blake’s mouth was starting to feel dry. He leant forwards and took a sip of water from the plastic cup next to him.

“It can be,” he replied. “That’s the job. Sadly, being a police officer isn’t all about catching people who have stolen the church collection money or handing out parking tickets for vehicles parked on the village green. Sometimes life happens, and life can be pretty brutal sometimes.”

“Do you think that could have had an effect? Stabbings, shootings, strangulations, you’re only human after all.” She smiled kindly at him, then glanced at the clock on the wall. “Have a think about it. We’re coming to a close now for the first session, but I think we’ve covered some really helpful details today.”

Blake was doubtful. As he thanked Linda and left the office, he could not help wondering exactly what she could possibly do to prevent him having bad dreams, especially as they stemmed from an event that had actually happened to him. There was no way to try and make sense of it, it was a traumatic experience that had clearly stuck with him and no amount of therapy was going to change that.

As he climbed into his car, he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, briefly chastising himself for his lack of self-control when it came to smoking. He had been trying to quit for a long time, but recently, even Blake had to admit that he had basically become a full-time smoker again.

With a heavy sigh, he turned the key in the ignition and began driving back towards Harmschapel, the image of the screaming old woman flashing into his mind’s eye briefly as he pulled out of the car park.

Blurb:

There’s no such thing as magic. Everything has a logical explanation, even when you can’t immediately see it. Nothing is impossible when looked at from the right angle.

Blake Harte has always lived by this mantra. It’s an attitude that has fared him well in Harmschapel after being faced with numerous bizarre murders and situations. But Blake’s beliefs are soon to be tested to breaking point when touring magician, Sebastian Klein, arrives in the village with his daughter, and glamorous assistant, Amelia, to perform their touring magic show.

Although reluctant to even watch the show, Blake and the rest of Harmschapel Police are soon called into action when Sebastian Klein performs the most baffling trick of his career. Just how many ways are there for a woman to completely vanish in front of an audience, especially when even the great Sebastian Klein has no explanation for what happened?

What initially looks like a big theatrical stunt soon leads Blake and the team to one of the darkest and most sinister cases they have ever come across. The disappearance of Amelia Klein threatens to explode in the ugliest way possible, and there is no way of telling just how many secrets she could expose if found…

Buy links:
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07L43NR4N/ref=series_rw_dp_sw
US: https://www.amazon.com/Atmosphere-Blake-Harte-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L43NR4N/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43126026-atmosphere?from_search=true

Want to know more about the author? Click the image of Robert Innes to reach his website!

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.

Exclusive Excerpt: Touch (The Blake Harte Mysteries Book 8) by Robert Innes

Excerpt:

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.

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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.”
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.
“Blake!”
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.
Blake!”
“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.

BLURB:

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…

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Click image for Robert Innes website

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.