Authors: Kennedy Chase
Tags: #(v5), #Suspense, #Women Sleuth, #Mystery, #Animal, #Romance, #Thriller
MURDER ON THE HILL
BOOK 1 OF THE
HARLEY HILL MYSTERIES
MONTY’S TALE PRESS
First published in 2014 by Monty’s Tale Press
Copyright © Kennedy Chase 2014
The moral right of the author has been asserted. All characters and events in this publication, other than those
clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Big thanks to Angela Pepper, Kevin Michaels, and Pauline Nolet. Without their help and respective skills, this book would not exist.
KENNEDY CHASE TITLES
Harley Hill Mysteries
Book 1- Murder on the Hill
Book 2 - Murder on the Page
Book 3 - Murder in the Snow
Harley is not my real name.
The reason why will become clear as I tell you the story of how I went from being a rogue orphan to an expert finder with the Silvers Finders Agency.
It all started on a hot day in August. I was living in a loft in the East End of London. The place belonged to Sapphire Eubanks, an old friend from my days in foster care.
She had gotten out of the system and made something of her life: a lawyer. She took pity on me as I was still struggling to find my way.
At twenty-five, I was starting to realise that the world didn’t just appreciate charm and an urchin-like quality. I needed to find a new path, one that didn’t involve crime bosses.
I was crashing the night, having left my last residence due to the landlord expecting me to pay rent with my body instead of cash. Not that I had any cash, hence the problem.
So I was in the loft, minding my own business in the morning, trying to bake a cake as a way of thanking Sapphire, when a pair of criminal underworld goons tried to smash the door in.
“Harley, open up!” shouted Frankie, the head goon.
I froze, stuck in two minds: save the cake or run?
They weren’t supposed to be here. Not now anyway.
Hell, they shouldn’t have even known I was staying here. It all went back to an incident I had with international crime boss extraordinaire Anton Ivanov and a little job I did for him, that kinda, sorta went wrong.
I had just four days left in which to pay five grand in cash to Ivanov, or he would stitch me up for the supposed theft of a diamond.
It wasn’t my fault one insignificant piece of geology happened to fall out of the package and go ‘missing’ during a handover. Things like that happened all the time, right? Pennies down the back of the sofa; a diamond down the back of a pocket…
What was one small diamond among friends, anyway? There were at least fifty more. Who knew criminals would be so anal about such things?
I had got away without having my legs twisted into pretzels. However, the monthly debt to keep Ivanov happy was now a millstone around my neck—one that was becoming increasingly difficult to meet.
So why the goons were here, I had no idea. Ivanov had probably decided to call in the debt early to teach me a lesson. That wouldn’t be entirely unexpected.
Two more crashes against the door made me jump.
I swear they were using a sledgehammer. My guts twisted with indecision. The cake was just a few minutes away from being done and I was starving, but I also liked having the use of my legs.
With no choice, I gathered my cell phone and biker’s jacket and sprinted through the apartment.
The door burst in, sending splinters of wood everywhere. I looked back and saw Frankie and his pit bull of a sidekick, Diesel, come crashing into the kitchen.
Sapphire would freak out when she saw the mess. I’d have to send her a message later, explaining what happened. Right now, I didn’t want to hang around and have my legs broken.
I slipped through the bathroom door and crawled out of the small window onto the building’s roof. My petite frame finally served a good purpose. No way would those two hulks fit through the narrow gap.
Frankie appeared in the doorway of the bathroom. “Harley, get your sweet little butt over here. We’ve a message from Ivanov. Be a love.”
I didn’t hang around. I climbed up the railing and leapt across to the next building’s roof, landing with a thud. The flat soles of my knee-high boots were perfect for this kind of thing. One could say I had previous experience of this.
While the two idiots were trying to find their way out of the apartment, I dashed across three more roofs until I came to a fire escape. I quickly descended and ran into an alley, vaulting over a fence.
With a sharp turn left, I entered Mile End tube station.
Somehow the goons had figured a quick way down. They turned the corner just as I descended into the underground. I dashed through to the platform using Sapphire’s travel card and disappeared into the throng of travellers.
My keen followers made it to the platform just as a pair of tube trains turned up.
They didn’t know which one to take. I was heading west, but I waited to see what they were going to do. The trains’ doors were already closing, and I had to make my decision.
They motioned toward the eastbound train. I dove into the narrow gap of the westbound, just slipping inside before the door slid shut.
An old woman frowned at me when I looked up at her, stupid grin on my face. I turned away and waved at Ivanov’s pups as the train pulled away.
I knew it wouldn’t be over, though, but at least I had survived for another few hours. Chalk that one up as a win in the Harley column.
With no real job to speak of, no home or assets, I realised I had to get creative with my plans in order to raise the cash. Or find some other way to get out of Ivanov’s debt.
One plan was already under way: a new identity. I’d go straight, find a job, and send Ivanov his money anonymously so he’d stay off my back until I had paid back all I owed him. Which was probably approaching fifty grand when you factor in his generous interest rates.
My phone rang. I looked at the caller ID. It was Cole Lockland, my dear friend and one of the best fences for high-quality items in all of London.
“What’s up, Cole?” I asked, trying to sound casual, even though my heart was still racing from the sudden burst of exercise.
And the trauma of losing a chocolate cake.
“Have you been running?” he asked in that deep, sultry voice of his.
“Kinda, it’s a long story. I lost a cake. It was devastating. So to what do I owe this pleasure? This about the ID?”
“It’s related to that, yeah. Listen, the ID’s taking a little longer to sort out. My usual contacts have had to go away for a few days, so everything’s been delayed.”
“Aw, Cole, that’s terrible news. What am I going to do now?”
“Don’t panic, for a start. I’ve got something lined up for you. It sounds like you’re on a train; are you heading to Portobello to meet me at the coffee shop?”
I had forgotten all about that in the ensuing race for my life, but I didn’t want Cole to know that. And besides, one has to take the coincidences when they come. I
heading west and would be in Portobello in less than half an hour. “Yeah, running a little late, but I’m on my way.”
“Change of plan. I’m heading away on business, but while you’re in Portobello I want you to visit a friend of mine, Cordelia Silvers. She’ll have a job opportunity for you.”
“What kind of job?”
“A safe one. Easy, it’s just finding stuff. She’s over at Bellman’s jewellers. I’ll tell her you’re on your way.”
“Wait, Cole, what?” The line went dead.
The people on the train stared at me like I’d killed a kitten. I hated all the social rules on trains. I turned away and waited until I reached Notting Hill Gate, eager to find out what Cole was talking about. I knew of the jeweller’s, but had no real interest in working there.
And there was still the immediate issue of finding five grand to keep Ivanov happy for this month. If I couldn’t raise the cash, he’d pull strings with his golfing buddies on the police force and have me put away for the best years of my life.
I could kiss goodbye to seeing my twenty-sixth birthday party while dressed in the finest knock-off Gucci. Instead, I’d be dressed in prison couture trying to avoid being a pretty little plaything to the other inmates.
I’m just not built for prison. They’d snap me like a twig and use my bones as a shiv.
The tube train came to a stop. The battle of exit-entry commenced, breaking me out of my thoughts. Surviving the onslaught from tourists and worker-drones alike, I exited Notting Hill Gate station.
The bright August sun made me squint. I needed a drink to clear the foul odour that clung to the back of my throat. Checking my pocket, I pulled out three fifty-pence coins.
That wouldn’t even buy a cup of spit in this part of town. Paying Ivanov’s debt felt like a mission impossible. In light of this, I reasoned I might as well jump off London Bridge now and donate my fine sweetmeats to the fish.
Although there was this so-called job opportunity from Cole.
Leaving the station, I walked down world-famous Portobello Road, dodging out of the way of shifty-looking Russians and market sellers hawking their varied goods.
The jeweller’s shop, where I was supposed to meet my new employer, waited at the far end of the road.
I hurried along, ignoring a wandering gypsy offering to tell me my fate. I didn’t need a psychic to tell me what my future consisted of. I already knew: broken legs and a decade in jail being someone’s prison wife.
I passed The Coffee Tree, where I was originally supposed to meet Cole. It stood out from the other shops in the street. Its rustic wooden exterior and holier-than-thou signs boasted its organic and fair trade credentials.
It probably cured syphilis and nurtured baby unicorns too.
Rich scents of too-expensive-for-me coffee wafted out into the humid summer air.
My stomach clenched with a desire to be massively caffeinated—and filled with cake. It’d been nearly two days since I last ate anything substantial. That was a pot of dried noodles. A product that I doubted actually classified as food. It was more like an essence of food, crafted from dehydrated tears and crumbled dreams.
What concerned me the most, however, was that some people actually ate that slop for enjoyment. But then some people liked to pretend they were a pony for their sexual kicks.
“There’s a market for everything,” Cole would say.
But he would. He’d sell sand to the Arabs. Nothing on the black market was too risky or too hard to sell for him—even diamonds, apparently.
Uh-hum, not that I would know anything about that.
Not being able to afford the coffee, I gave my remaining change to a homeless fella. I felt sorry for the old dude. Although one-fifty in change wouldn’t really help him out much, it was all I had. I’m sure it would help towards something, at least.
“Thanks,” he said, cracking a toothless smile.
“No worries.” I just wished I had more to give him.
Being in Notting Hill hopefully meant some of the rich folks that lived around here would help him out more than I could.
Though I knew that wasn’t guaranteed.
Having grown up in care, I had spent a number of months living rough on the streets, especially as I got older and found it harder to find people to care for me.
The rich were often the least generous, I had found. Odd, that. But then I suppose that’s why they remain rich: they don’t give any of it away unless there’s a return.
At the end of the road, I saw the familiar colours of a police car. A cold dread slithered through my veins and my legs became weak.