BRAND NEW: Driving Dead – Stephen Collier
A GRIPPING NEW CRIME THRILLER
‘With horror, she felt all the muscles in her body cramp, as her body went into an uncontrollable spasm. Her right foot hit the accelerator pedal and lay there like a brick.’
When a woman is killed and her family seriously injured in a road collision, Jake Jordan and his team are called in to investigate. Discovering a water bottle laced with a substance which causes drivers to have seizures and die while driving, Jordan enlists the help of Kirsty and her long-time microbiologist friend Dr Tanya Nicholls to analyse and deconstruct the drug.
As the detectives pursue the murderer, Kirsty finds her suspicions aroused towards Tanya and confronts her with Jordan. Meeting with Detective Inspector Fletcher Randall, they organise a sting, but the murderer is one step ahead. The police find themselves faced with an abduction and near fatal accident as a result.
The search for the perpetrator leads the investigative team closer to home. Will Jordan and Kirsty uncover the killer before it’s too late?
In the middle of the afternoon, Rachel felt decidedly unwell. Even after her usual nights out with the girls, she had always prided herself on getting to work the following day on time, happy and certainly not hungover. She was only twenty-two after all, and quite capable of staying out late and getting in to work on time the following day.
But she was always careful, kept her drinks covered and never finished them if she had left them unattended. Not that she believed that it would happen to her. The trolls usually went for the pretty blondes or brunettes. She, on the other hand, had short mousy brown hair. She didn’t consider herself fat, but knew that she wasn’t thin either. She was happy and confident with herself and the way she looked, and that’s all that mattered.
As she drove to work, along the Nene Valley Way, she thought again about how, when she’d woken up that morning, she had felt out of sorts. Not bad enough for her to take a sick day. But she felt even worse. She knew that she would get the third degree from Connie about being out on the town the previous night, if she asked to go home. So, she went into work as normal, trying to think of how and why she felt so ill.
She stayed at her desk, not really concentrating on her work. She looked around the office. Her workspace was part of a large, open-plan office with partitions. Even the managers worked on the same floor. There were no special offices for managers or supervisors. It was supposed to ensure that the team worked together. There were motivational pictures on the wall – GOAL, PERSISTENCE and the ones that really pissed her off, ‘THERE’S NO I IN TEAM’ and ‘ASSUME – makes an ASS out of U and ME.’
It was not the job she intended to do when she left school. After all, she got straight ‘A’s in her GCSEs and should have gone to uni, but couldn’t find a place. So she was left on the shelf, a bit like her personal life.
God, my head hurts, she thought. She called to her colleague sitting opposite. ‘Hey, Gill, just how much did I have to drink last night? I feel crap.’
‘Not much,’ Gill responded, keeping her head down.
‘What do you mean by not much?’
Gill looked up from her work. ‘Erm… you only had a couple of lagers in a bottle, then a load of shots and, of course, the wine before we all went out.’
‘That’s nothing to what I normally have. Although… shots?’ questioned Rachel. ‘I never drink shots.’
‘So you tell me. You were knocking a few of them back.’ She smiled at her knowingly.
‘So, why do I feel so bad?’
‘Must have been something you ate.’
‘But I didn’t eat anything.’
‘You must have, as you left with that blonde girl. You seemed to be getting on with quite well, if you know what I mean.’
‘No, I don’t. And what blonde girl?’
‘The one in that mini-dress, bit of a looker, probably bent as a nine-bob note, as my old dad would say, but you seemed OK with her.’
‘So, what happened? I’ve no memory of anything that happened last night?’
‘She was sitting at the bar on her own and came on to you. You carried on talking and drinking with her, and then left. Don’t you remember anything?’
‘Nope, not a thing.’
‘She must have put something in your drink then.’
‘How could she? You know how careful I am.’
‘It must have happened either before you left or afterwards. Where did you go?’
‘As I said,’ Rachel was more frustrated, ‘I don’t know. I can’t remember.’ She put her head down and sighed. She rubbed her face and moved her mousy brown hair back from her forehead.
‘You were both downing shots, as if they were going out of fashion. The rest of us left you to it. You seemed to be enjoying yourself so much.’
‘I must have had a skinful. Christ, I feel really unwell.’
‘Where did you leave the blonde?’
‘As I said, I don’t remember any blonde.’
‘OK, if you say so.’ Gill left it there and put her head down to get back to work. She had noticed Connie hovering in the background and didn’t want to get involved in a conversation with her.
‘All right, how did I get home?’
Gill looked up again, glancing around the room to see where Connie was. ‘You came back to us just as we were leaving, so we all went home in the usual way.’
‘Oh.’ Rachel looked at the clock on the wall in front of her. 13.30, its red numerals flickered. She got up from her desk and walked over to her supervisor. She spoke quietly with him then returned to her workstation and, without a further word, left to go home.
* * *
Heading out of the Brackmills Industrial Estate, Rachel drove her Fiat 500 out onto the A45 towards Wellingborough, then left onto the Lumbertubs Way.
As she drove along the dual carriageway a bit slower than the fifty miles per hour speed limit, she felt a little drowsy. She took a swig of the Coca-Cola she had open in the cup holder. It didn’t do any good, because it was flat and she spluttered a bit as she drank.
Leaving Northampton through Moulton and out onto the A43 heading toward Kettering, she thought she’d soon be back home in Broughton, where she could lie down and recover from her hangover. She reasoned that the journey home should be quick as she got onto the open road. It was usually a tiresome journey, particularly if you got stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle.
Throughout the journey, she felt more and more unwell. Everything was swimming in front of her, in and out of focus. She hallucinated; spiders on the windscreen that she tried to bat off with the wipers. But her main concern was keeping it together until she got home. Feeling panicked, as she passed the Red House crossroads, she felt her feet and hands going numb, her eyelids getting heavier and, as she passed the turning for Walgrave, she blacked out.
She was suddenly awoken by the blare of a car horn. She opened her eyes to see that she had drifted onto the wrong side of the road and a large van was heading directly towards her, the driver with his hand firmly planted on his horn and a look of horror on his face. To Rachel it sounded like a ship’s foghorn, blaring away, filling her senses.
She wrenched the steering wheel of the little Fiat violently to the left to try to avoid the van, but it was too late. The van hit the Fiat, spinning it out of control and across the road where the large kerbstone lifted the little car off its wheels and over the barrier. It slithered and rolled down a steep embankment towards a water filled ditch. Despite her seat belt, Rachel was thrown about the vehicle, smashing her head and smashing the door window, then, as the vehicle rolled, hitting the gear lever, the front windscreen. Door post, gear lever, windscreen. Door post, gear lever, windscreen. Over and over again.
The Fiat came to rest, upside down in the ditch. Rachel was unconscious, hanging in her seat belt. The vehicle slowly slipped further and further into the ditch, but she knew nothing of the dirty water that freely entered her lungs, drowning out her life.
About the Author
Stephen came to serious writing late in life, although he can say that he has had an interest in writing and the English language since he was a teenager.
Of course, back in those days in deepest and darkest, Northamptonshire, there was no social media, no mobile phones and even the TV started off in black and white. So teenagers needed to find other ways to entertain themselves. And for Stephen, writing was one way. He continued to write on and off until he became a police officer.
Spending thirty years as a police officer taught him to write about FACTS and not FICTION (although he knows some would probably disagree!)
Leaving school with little in the way of academic qualifications, it is a surprise to him now that he has managed to gain both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree and he would concede that his ability in academia probably only started after he left school. A late starter, as his mother was fond of saying. Writing grammatically correct police reports kept pace with his desire to write and a short period where he wrote policy for senior officers enhanced that ability to write something that occasionally went higher than the Chief Constable.
Service with Northamptonshire Police continued for thirty years. During that time the ‘life skills’ came thick and fast. As a young man he’d always felt that writing fiction was not something he could do without them. It was only towards the end of his service that the saying, ‘there is a book in everyone’ came more and more to the front of his mind and he began to wonder whether it was true. The idea for a book that he’d had in his early career came back to him, although in truth, it had probably never gone away. Now it fermented at the back of his mind until a rekindling of the desire to write fictional stories, mostly based on those earlier life skills in ‘the job,’ made his mind up for him. The book had to come out.
Stephen’s first novel, Blind Murder, was published in 2014. His second title featuring Sergeant Jake Jordon, Driving Dead, has just been released.
Praise for Stephen’s earlier work
“Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! I am a fan of Peter James, James Patterson, Katy Reichs and many of the other mainstream crime writers. This easily matched them in terms of twists, turns, suspense and action.”
“Well written novel with characters you can enjoy hating”
“Very well written suspense thriller”
“Very well crafted book, Thoroughly enjoyed it. A gripping storyline”
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