To Find Him and Love Him Again

(Tyack & Frayne Book 10)

Welcome to Harper's current work-in-progress! For the tenth book in the Tyack & Frayne series, she is trying a new approach: serialising via her Patreon account. She is very grateful for all the support she's received, and if you too would like to read the story so far, you can check out how Patreon works here.

The book will be released as usual after its completion on Patreon, and will be available from Amazon and all Harper's usual outlets.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from the chapter Harper's currently working on, called A Day in the Life. Time to catch up with her favourite couple, just going about their morning business - but of course, nothing is ever quite ordinary in the village of Dark!

Lee saw Ma Frayne off in her taxi, followed rapidly by Gid in the police truck, revving and bemoaning his lost paperwork hour. Ma, for all her good intentions, had lingered helplessly over her grandchild, causing the cabbie to beep and tap his watch until Gid went to glare at him. Thereafter he’d sat frozen like a rabbit in headlights, huddled behind the wheel.

Tamsyn had waved them off gaily from her perch in Lee’s arms. She’d recovered her equanimity with a thoroughness that was typical of her. Dinosaurs and a change of subject usually did the trick, but there was more to it than that: as if, although tossed about in life’s teacup storms like anyone else, she could see beyond them into a broad blue ocean where everything would be all right. Lee had set her down, and she’d taken his hand and towed him indoors to resume their morning routine.

 

He set off twenty minutes earlier than he needed to, allowing her to botanise to her heart’s content along the verges of the lane, Isolde snuffling at her heels. The morning had risen to a perfect moorland stillness – barely a breath of wind, the gold of the gorse giving back the sunlight until the whole landscape seemed ready to melt and dissolve, a single lark holding position directly overhead to pour out her song. Lee’s body wanted to sing back to her. Right or wrong, Gideon’s push into his dream had made him come like a spring tide with an onshore gale behind it. He felt like... Striving for a comparison, a way to describe to himself what his husband had done to him, he shivered with laughter. He felt like Truro cathedral, that was it. In the moments just after a roaring, all-stops-pulled organ recital had stopped. Empty but sanctified. Vibrant. Last note still shaking the air.

 

Unusually for that hour, there was someone in the lane. Tamsyn had wandered ahead: Lee lengthened his stride to catch up with her. But there was no need. Reflexively sweeping a mental searchlight over the new arrival, he understood that no harm would come from the tall, exquisitely turned-out figure between the hedgerows. He was in his sixties, had pure white hair in an immaculate brush-cut. He was watching Lee’s skylark with frowning intensity. Before Lee could retract the feeler, he saw. His laughter pitched up to an involuntary bark, and he clapped a hand to his mouth.

 

Too late. The man in the lane cringed back, and made a comical half-jump through a gap in the hedge.

As efforts to vanish went, it wasn’t convincing. Beyond the hedge there was no better cover than a wind-stripped thorn bush. Grand from the waist up, in a summertime glory of pink-white blossom and leaves, but as Lee passed the gap, he helplessly observed a pair of cream-linen clad legs behind the trunk.

 

The guy was hiding from him. With an effort, Lee controlled himself, got his normal senses and the hyperactive sixth back under command. Where were his manners? If a fellow walker on the moors wished to keep himself to himself and not be seen, what business was it of Lee’s? Eyes front and forward, he continued down the lane.

 

But this was crazy. Lee stopped in his tracks. “I’m sorry,” he called, not looking back, a chuckle breaking up his words. “It’s just that... you’ve got planets coming out of your head. It’s amazing.”

 

A brief lark-song silence. Then a voice to match the linen and the lovely hair, cultured and rich: “It’s very awkward sometimes. You know me, I suppose. You’re a...” The voice became weary. “A fan.”

Lee turned. His companion had given up his effort at cover, which reminded Lee dangerously of Monty Python’s how not to be seen, and was standing in the sunlight like a model for silver-fox menswear. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure,” Lee said, as politely as he could, quenching his amusement. “I didn’t mean to disturb your walk, and your... your thoughts. You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

 

“Yes, yes.” A shrug and a sigh, both deeply resigned. “Jules Rowland, that’s right. What’s it to be – an autograph or a photo? I don’t do selfies, I’m afraid, but you can take a picture of me here, if you take the geographic tagging off your phone. I can show you how to do that, if you don’t know.”

 

“I... I don’t want your photo or your autograph, sir. I’m afraid I don’t know who you are.”

 

That went down like a very mixed cocktail. Rowland’s jaw dropped in a blend of relief and chagrin. “You don’t?”

 

“Not at all. But I’m still pleased to meet you. My name’s Lee Tyack-Frayne, from the house on the top of the hill there.”

 

“Ah, Chy Lowen! Yes, when I first came here I asked my assistant to rent that for me, but she said...” Rowland shook his head in sorrow at the ways of an inconsiderate world. “She said there were people living there. I had to take the other, on the far side of the hill. You don’t want to sell, I suppose?”

 

The other was a multi-millionaire’s playground, converted by a feckless developer and left standing empty for years, because no-one mad enough to live on the wastes of Bodmin would ever be able to pay that much for a house. “Not at the moment. Thank you, though. We like it.”

 

“Splendid place. No neighbours, perfect backdrop. What did you mean about the planets, Mr... Train, was it? Freight? If you don’t know who I am?”

 

“Tyack-Frayne,” Lee corrected gently. “I just see things sometimes. I didn’t mean to pry.”

 

“Well, it’s rather odd. That is what it feels like, though – planets coming out of my head. I write science – er, speculative fiction. Satellite Six, the New Earth Warriors series. You know.”

 

Lee didn’t. He tried to conceal his lack of recognition, but Rowland’s face fell. He was lovely, Lee decided, for all his vanity. The denizens of his planets, his warriors and aliens, were tumbling about in the air all around him, an aura made out of stars. He was barely human himself, but perhaps that was the price he paid for his gift. “I bet my other half knows your stuff,” Lee said, trying to cheer him up. “If you’re just over the hill from us at Trescoe’s, come and have tea with us sometime. Meet the neighbours.”

 

Rowland took a backward step. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly. I’m a recluse.”

 

Lee looked him over. If anyone had turned out on a moorland morning ready to meet an army of photo-hunting fans... Where he’d expected to find them, Lee didn’t know, but maybe a coach or two of visitors would arrive for him at Dark. “I’d best leave you alone, then,” he said, smiling.

 

“Yes. Very nice to meet you, of course, but... Oh. Is that your little girl?”

 

“Yes, that’s our Tamsyn. She’s taken to wandering the moors a bit – if ever she turns up in your garden, just send her back along the lane.”

 

“She’s adorable. What hair. What a little picture.”

 

“She’s a hoyden.” Lee cupped his hands to carry his voice against the breeze. “Tamsie? Come back here, sweet.” The recluse wants to meet you.

She obeyed him at a full-barrelled run, the dog trotting briskly behind. A bare stride short of Rowland, she pulled to a halt and put out her hand to him as she’d been taught. Rowland took it with solemn courtesy and gave it a little shake. “Good morning, Miss Tamsyn.”

 

“Morning, Mr Diamonds.”

 

It came out like diments, but Lee understood. He met Rowland’s puzzled glance. “She means diamonds like jewels. Like your first name. Jules.”

 

“That doesn’t really explain anything at all. Are you two sure you don’t know me?”

 

“Well, we do now. If you change your mind about the neighbours, just come and knock on our door. We’ll set something up.”

 

Rowland retreated again, by two steps this time. He made a gesture of half-hearted warding-off. “I couldn’t, really. Not possibly.”

 

***

 

Lee continued his walk into the village. He walked Tamsyn up to the school gates, where headmistress Prynne intercepted her. Unlike poor Rowland, Tamsyn could be sure of her fanbase in the village, and he watched in pleasure as she was borne off among a chattering crowd of her teachers and friends.

 

Now his working day should begin. Hard to find shadows on a day like this, but he could set up his camera gear in Chy Lowen’s attic space, stand against the wall with the most crumbling plaster and cobwebs, and record an atmospheric outtro for Anna. After that he’d drive across to St Wynnoe to see Jory’s boat, check out the scale of the work and give him an estimate. He had a load of laundry to do, some hoovering, beds to make. Gideon was good about splitting the housework, but if Lee took him at his word about a total break from all labour, the place would be a wreck within a week.

The lane was quite empty now, no allegedly famous authors to waylay him. Now he came to think about it, he could see the name Rowland in block letters on the spine of several of Gideon’s dog-eared paperbacks. Lee considered texting him – a good subject for their one-a-day exchange, that; would tickle him no end among the parking tickets and petty crime of his day. Lee knew it wasn’t all car chases and heroism, although Gid had never looked back since discounting CID from his career path, as if he’d seen into the dreamworld of plainclothes, alternate history, a terrible outcome of grief in disaster in the streets of...

Kerdrolla. Lee stumbled to a halt a few yards from the top of the hill, breath catching in his throat. He pushed his fingers into the moss on the top of the drystone wall. He had to hang on to this world, not that hellish dream. Gideon didn’t remember, and that for Lee was the whole point. If he ever did, if he recalled John Tregear, firelight and fever and a burning church, Lee would lose him. Simple as that. Because Gid could bear all the world’s badness, could put on his uniform every day and go out to set it right, but his whole faith depended on his knowledge that he himself was a good man. Beleaguered sometimes, hot-tempered and horny around the full moon, but deeply, essentially human and good.

Ah, Lee had set just as much aside as Gideon! Kerdrolla had gone on the shelf along with Dave Rawle and Rufus Pendower’s crush, which had turned from a joke to a dangerous obsession, and Lee had shelved that last one because Rufus remembered too.

He didn’t want to look at any of it now. He was suddenly, overwhelmingly tired. Aftereffects of the mickey his kid had slipped him? If so, he was almost grateful. The deathly streets of Story-town faded out from the front of his brain. The children had lived, and Gideon had run with the bomb the length of the harbour at Falmouth and pitched it out into the sea. Lee’s shining saviour cop, who up until this morning had grumpily discouraged all mention of his heroism!

He let himself in through the garden gate. Poppies with heads the size of Gid’s fist had opened since yesterday alongside the path into the orchard. Somniferum, those were, as Tamsyn probably knew, pink and purple silk with ripe pods that wept white sap like semen. Maybe Lee was irresponsible to let them grow in his garden, but Tamsie was far too advanced in her wortcunning to come to any harm.

Wortcunning? Smiling, Lee made his way through the sunlit shade of the apple trees. He and Gid had run the risk of leaving out a pair of old deckchairs overnight, inviting Bodmin fogs and creeping damp, but the weather had stayed fine. Where had he picked up an outrageous old witch-word like that? From Mrs Coulter, probably, that nice old lady Elowen had discovered in the village and who brought his little girl books on botany and comparative religion. Tamsie was off with her after school today, for a reading session or whatever they got up to, so he didn’t even have to worry about getting done with his chores in time for the half-past-three run.

Maybe everything could go on hold for an hour or so. What had Gideon told him to do? Sit in a deckchair and watch the apples ripen. “Sorry,” he whispered, yawning, pulling the message close to himself so it wouldn’t reach through their link and disturb Gid at his desk. “Can’t even manage that much, love. The deckchair part, yes, but...” He sank down into the gaudily striped canvas cradle, tipped his head back and stared at the leaf-dappled blue until a veil seemed to cover it, a darkness. The apples will have to look after themselves.

***

 

Gideon spent his morning amongst the good, the bad and the bewildered of Dark and Bodmin town. He was rostered for a two-hour shift in the village every Tuesday and Friday morning, usually long enough to mop up any small villainies there, especially now that Bill Prowse was gone and Ross doing time in Exeter jail. Darren, too – off to a shady new job in London, Lee had said, an unlikely escapee from the far-west poverty trap.

Gideon missed his lanky, conniving presence with an unexpected pang. In his absence, all he had to do to discharge his duty of guardianship was help Mrs Waite fit her new security alarm, and retrieve Kate Salthouse’s prized ragdoll cat from the culvert drain under Cros-an-Wra lane.

 

The creature hissed and spat at him tremendously as he squeezed his bulk through the tunnel. He took her as gently as he could by the scruff and squeezed back out. Once in his arms, her pedigree kicked in and she flopped like a swooning debutante, leaving a silken imprint of herself in long white hairs all over his uniform shirt.

 

His utility vest – they were encouraged not to talk or think of it as a stab vest these days – covered the worst of that damage. Not, alas, the lipstick kiss-mark planted on his face by the grateful Kate, which he failed to notice until Jenny Spargo pointed it out with a whoop in Bodmin car park. He fended off the flak from her and the half-dozen other officers sent to form a thin blue line against three hopped-up boy racers tearing up the tarmac amongst the grannies and kids. A flying fender missed his kneecap by half an inch. He chucked a stinger to Jenny, who was better placed to deploy, and she tossed out the strip with a matador’s grace just in time to spike the Subaru’s next charge.

 

After that – reabsorb the adrenaline, wipe off the grit from your face, such being the life of a uniformed town bobby. Suddenly Gid had a flash of Tamsie’s book from yesterday. He saw himself marching about in the guise of a tubby, black-and-white Mr Policeman Badger, and was shaking with laughter when he went to pick up the next call from the Rover’s dashboard radio.

A summons to the high-street butcher’s, where to his grief he recognised one of the smaller Prowses, caught literally red-handed with a half pound of liver down the front of his coat. Gideon retrieved the bloody package. Disgusting, but he was suddenly faint with hunger. He slipped the kid a fiver, gave him a look he wouldn’t soon forget, and released him to scamper away. Mr Kyger the butcher showed signs of outrage, so Gideon looked at him too, slapped the meat down on his counter-top and added another fiver to pay for it, reflecting that he’d come off this shift in the red if this went on.

Blood, dirt, fur. At lunchtime, back at HQ, he cleaned himself up as best he could and went to look for his boss.

He didn’t have to wait. She was prowling the corridor, evidently in search of him. “Sergeant,” she rapped out. “Where on earth have you been? My office, please – now.”

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