London, December 1932
The body was buried under a pile of rubbish in the unlit alleyway. Simon would have failed to see it, if it were not for the cat.
That December evening London was shrouded in a thick yellow smog from power stations and the smoke of thousands of coal fires. It was impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction. Simon was late as he hurried down the lower end of Oxford Street. When he came upon the alleyway, he hesitated for only a moment before choosing to take the shortcut.
He had discovered the route during the summer when he had begun working at the BBC’s new wireless studios in Portland Place. It cut several minutes from his semi-regular sojourn to the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. On summer evenings it had been a pleasant stroll through the back streets, away from the noise and smell of traffic, and crowds on the main thoroughfare.
But now, in mid-December, the alleyway was dark and forbidding, a much less inviting place to be. The fog deadened the sound of London’s traffic to a low rumble, and the visibility was even worse than in Oxford Street. Simon trod carefully and extended his gloved hands in front of him. It was harder than walking in the dark, because the acrid taste of the fog got into his nose and mouth, and made him cough loudly.
Up ahead he heard muffled voices followed by a thud. The noise was indistinct but threatening. He stopped, and considered turning to go back to Oxford Street. If there was villainy ahead, he wanted no part of it.
Pull yourself together man, he thought. This is Bloomsbury, not Whitechapel.
He resumed his slow trudge along the alleyway, his eyes fixed on the comforting glow of a distant street lamp. Once more he extended his arms to forewarn him of any obstacle ahead.
It was after no more than a few dozen yards that the cat startled him. It emerged from a gap in the wall to his left and hissed. Simon recoiled, his foot slipped on the uneven cobblestones, and he fell backwards onto the ground.
Which was when he saw the hand.
It was a woman’s hand. The long fingers caked in dirt, the red polished nails were chipped. The arm and the rest of the body to which it was attached were covered by several grubby hessian sacks. Simon scrambled to his feet. He brushed down his mohair coat, and leaned against the wall to catch his breath.
From this viewpoint, the protruding hand was not visible beneath the pile of sacks. But Simon knew it was there. He could recall the scratches on the fingers, the cracks in the nail polish. He took a deep breath to prepare himself for what he might find, and crouched down to inspect it more closely. As he did so he gathered the hem of his coat to avoid it coming into contact with the muddy cobblestones. He reached out to the nearest of the sacks and lifted the fabric, taking care to avoid touching whatever might lie beneath.
The hand was indeed attached to an arm. There was a delicate gold bracelet around the wrist, just below the cuff of a fur-trimmed coat. Simon grew bolder and gave the sack a firm flick to remove it.
About the Author
David C. Dawson is an award-winning author, journalist and documentary maker. He writes British gay-themed thrillers featuring gay men in love.
His debut novel The Necessary Deaths, won an FAPA award in the best suspense/thriller category. It’s the first in the Delingpole Mysteries series. The latest: The Foreign Affair, was published last year.
David’s also written two gay romances: For the Love of Luke and Heroes in Love.
He lives near Oxford, with his boyfriend and two cats. In his spare time, he tours Europe and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus.
Amazon author page. https://geni.us/DCDawsonAmazonAuthor
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To celebrate the release of A Death in Bloomsbury, David is giving away One of 3 backlisted e-books from his catalogue