Authors: Matthew Costello
“Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series” is a series made up of self-contained stories. A new episode is released each month. The series is published in English as well as in German, and is only available in e-book form.
(US-based) is the author of a number of successful novels, including
Beneath Still Waters
(1989), which was adapted by Lionsgate as a major motion picture. He has written for The Disney Channel, BBC, SyFy and has also designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed
The 7th Guest
Pirates of the Caribbean
has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including
The Da Vinci Code
, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.
His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together.
is their first crime fiction as co-writers.
is a former NYPD homicide detective who lost his wife a year ago. Being retired, all he wants is peace and quiet. Which is what he hopes to find in the quiet town of Cherringham, UK. Living on a canal boat, he enjoys his solitude. But soon enough he discovers that something is missing — the challenge of solving crimes. Surprisingly, Cherringham can help him with that.
is a web designer who was living in London with her husband and two kids. Two years ago, he ran off with his sexy American boss, and Sarah’s world fell apart. With her children she moved back to her home town, laid-back Cherringham. But the small town atmosphere is killing her all over again — nothing ever happens. At least, that’s what she thinks until Jack enters her life and changes it for good or worse …
A COSY CRIME SERIES
The Curse of Mabb’s Farm
Digital original edition
Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG
Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany
Written by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards
Edited by Victoria Pepe
Project management: Lori Herber
Cover illustration: © shutterstock: Buslik/xpixel/jamesdavidphoto
Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer
E-book production: Urban
Charlie Fox looked across the valley at the sun, which had now slipped behind the hills.
I should be back at the farm,
Sipping a nice cold one, Caitlin getting dinner ready.
But here he was trying to get his damn cows to head home down the hill for milking, instead of stopping every few feet, chomping on grass, then eye-balling Charlie while they chewed the cud.
As if they were saying …
we’ll move when we’re ready!
Like everything else on the farm, this herding cows business… all went to crap when Charlie touched it.
He was told a few dairy cows — couldn’t be easier! Small herd, low maintenance — big profit, they said.
They eat the damn grass, the machine milks them.
Until the damn machine goes on the blink and costs a fortune to be fixed. And what about when the cows don’t even want to be milked? What kind of cows don’t want to be milked? These Jerseys worth a fortune. Supposed to be made of milk.
And of course, he was now down yet another animal. Had thirty at the beginning of the year, now only twenty-six after this damned TB nonsense.
‘Keep an eye on the others,’ the vet had said, handing Charlie a whopping bill.
The sun had set now, and the light had faded from the murky autumn sky.
!” he said to the cows.
He had a wooden switch that was supposed to herd them but it seemed he must be doing something wrong because all it ever did was make the cows give him the evil eye.
They weren’t bulls. No horns or whatnot. Still, maybe not a good idea to anger an animal that big.
He rubbed his arms at the dropping temperature and, turning to face the farmhouse, thought again about the dinner Caitlin would have ready for him when suddenly, he saw fire.
He froze for a minute, as if what he was looking at was from one of those horror films he loved to watch.
But then —
oh shit —
he bolted, racing down the slippery, muddy slope of the hill, running full pelt to his farm.
Eyes locked on the fire.
It wasn’t the farmhouse. Caitlin and Sammy would be okay, thank God.
But his tractor, sitting just outside the barn — covered in flames!
Still not paid for, and now the thing was on fire, its shape lost in the blaze, black smoke swirling.
As he ran, he saw Caitlin race out of the house holding Sammy, his sweet baby boy, looking at the fire.
More damn bad luck!
And, eyes on the flaming tractor, his right foot caught an exposed tree root and then he tumbled forward, failing to stop his fall.
He thumped to the ground hard, a painful landing caught by his right shoulder as he then rolled further down the hill.
Shoulder hurting, he hauled himself up and continued racing, dodging cow pats.
Then, close now, he saw someone running from the right.
Tom. His farm-hand.
What the hell was he doing here?
By the time Charlie had reached the tractor, the fire had begun to ebb; the yellow paint now blistered and blackening.
Tom held the fire extinguisher they kept in the barn pointed at the tractor.
But nothing was coming out.
Why is Tom even here?
Charlie yelled. “Turn the damn thing
The farm-hand turned to Charlie, yelling back. “It’s stuck, Charlie. These things are supposed to be inspected. You’re supposed to make sure they—”
And with Tom berating him — something he did far too easily, Charlie thought — the extinguisher suddenly went on with a loud
Above that sound, Charlie heard Sammy crying. His baby boy, scared by the shouts, the fire.
He should be inside. Caitlin should take him inside.
Instead Caitlin came closer, her voice just audible above the noise of the crackling fire and the extinguisher foam shooting out, covering the tractor like snow.
The baby was still crying.
“Go inside, Caitlin. I’ll deal with this.”
The fire extinguisher stopped, empty.
But the fire — save on one of the big rear tyres which was now giving off a horrible stink — had also stopped.
The smell — from the extinguisher stuff, from the melted paint, the burning tyre — made Charlie’s stomach turn.
But it was over.
“It’s the Curse, Charlie. This farm is cursed!”
He turned and looked at his wife, wanting to disagree, to tell her no such thing.
Especially since she had their blue-eyed boy close.
Everything’s okay. It’s all fine.
But this fire?
He turned to Tom, still standing there, empty extinguisher in his hands.
Charlie had other ideas about how this fire started, and who did it.
!” Charlie said, gesturing wildly to the ruined tractor.
“What? What the hell you talking about, Charlie?”
Charlie moved closer to Tom.
“You did this. You set my tractor on fire, you—”
“Charlie—” Caitlin moved to stand beside him. Sammy waved a hand towards his father’s face as if the little fellow could sense something was wrong.
Tom shook his head. “Charlie, I just put
the fire. Went to the barn, got the extinguisher—”
“And what were you doing here anyway?”
Tom had left hours ago, angry, kicking at the dirt when Charlie told him that he’d have to cut back his hours.
Just don’t have the money, Tom.
Tom hadn’t taken the news too well.
Could he have been angry enough to set the tractor on fire? Charlie was sure he could.
“You left and came back? What, had a few pints and thought you’d show me, hmm?”
“I came back,” Tom replied slowly, looking at the three of them standing in front of him, “Because I left some tools here that I needed for the weekend. I saw the fire and ran as fast as I could to put it out …”
. Maybe that’s what you’d like me to believe, you—”
He held his tongue just in time, unwilling to swear in front of Sammy.
“You’re saying I
the fire then put it out? That makes no sense.”
“Oh yes it does.”
Charlie thought he had him now. He had read something about things like this.
“It’s that … that Baron something syndrome. Makes you look like a good guy now, don’t it? Tom, the bloody hero!”
“You’re losing it,” Tom said. Then to Caitlin. “I feel bad for you, Caitlin, having to put up with likes of him.”
That was it.
Charlie took a step, his hand bunching into a fist. But again Caitlin grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Charlie,
“Know what?” he said.
“You’re fired. Take whatever’s yours, and get the bloody hell off Mabb’s Farm.”
“Too right, I will,” Tom said. “Pretty poor excuse for a farm anyway. You’d need good luck to get anything out of this dump and the only kind of luck you have, Charlie, is the other kind!”