Mysteries on the cozier side of crime

After the traumatic conclusion of his last case, Detective Inspector Dave Slater is sent off on a dead-end case to get him out of the way. Unknown to Slater, his close friend and former colleague Norman Norman is tasked with finding the whereabouts of his one time girlfriend, former barrister and recent down-and-out Jenny Radstock.


Things quickly take a sinister turn, however, when Norman is asked to go and identify a body lying on a mortuary slab. What looks like a simple case of suicide rapidly starts to unravel, when Norman and sidekick Naomi Darling venture into the homeless community but are then plunged into a dark and grimy world of derelict squats, drug dealers.


Norman begins to get the feeling Superintendent Bradshaw knows more than he’s letting on, but can they untangle the complex web of informants, drug lords, and stolen mobile phones before it’s too late?


Bonus Material Inside!
Included with the main story is Norman Norman’s Christmas Novella, which tells the story of what happens after the main story ends.

> Or, if you prefer a paperback:

Ford has a unique way of drawing his reader into his character’s lives. I find his books page turners, making me disappointed when I reach the end.

CHAPTER ONE

‘I think you’ve done enough assessing, don’t you?’ asked Slater. ‘Can I go back to work now?’

Sitting in the easy chair opposite, Dr Andrea Newsome looked impassively at Slater through the large round lenses of her spectacles. ‘Are you sure you’re ready? I have to be sure there are no aftereffects and you’re going to be able to cope.’

Slater heaved a frustrated sigh. He wished he’d never heard of Diana Randall. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t jumped off that bloody roof, he would never have been undergoing this stupid assessment. ‘This is ridiculous,’ he snapped. ‘You know I’m not crazy, and I certainly don’t need a shrink.’

‘We’ve been through this before. No one is suggesting you’re crazy, and I’m not a shrink. I’m here to assess you, not declare you insane.’

‘I don’t need assessing. I just need to get back to work.’

‘You make it sound as if I’m going to have you strapped into a straitjacket and carted off for a lobotomy! My job is simply to determine if you’re ready to go back to work. It’s only been four weeks, and I told you before, we have to go through a process called “watchful waiting”.’

‘And what exactly are you watchfully waiting for?’

‘Signs,’ she said. ‘Signs that will tell me you have been affected by what happened and need help before you can go back to work, or signs that tell me you are ready to go back to work without any further help.’

‘But I am ready,’ said Slater.

‘So you keep saying, but that’s for me to decide.’

He threw his hands up in irritation. ‘But I keep telling you, there’s nothing wrong with me.’

‘Suffering the sort of traumatic shock you endured isn’t something to be ashamed of. Diana slipped through your arms and fell off a roof. Of course you feel guilty. Anyone would.’

‘She didn’t “slip through my arms”. I had hold of her, but she conned me into letting go.’

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest–‘

‘I had enough trouble convincing Professional Standards I hadn’t colluded with her,’ he said bitterly. ‘I don’t need you to start dragging that all up again. She kissed me! It’s not exactly the sort of thing you expect a murder suspect to do, and I was so surprised I relaxed my grip. That’s when she jumped. She knew exactly what she was doing.’

‘I’m sorry, it must have been awful.’

‘Of course it was awful, but what was worse was being accused of letting her jump. But you already know all this. We’ve been through it before, and I’m not doing it again. You’ll just have to accept my word. I’m over it.’

Dr Newsome glanced down at her notes. ‘But what about the stuff you told me that went with it? Didn’t you tell me you couldn’t sleep? And what about your appetite? According to my notes, you’re not eating properly. It also says here you have no energy. Shall I go on?’

‘That was when I first came here and it had just happened. I was exhausted, and a bit shell-shocked.’ 

‘And what about now? Are you still shell-shocked?’

Slater sighed. ‘I suppose I am a bit, yes, but I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. It’s because I have nothing to do. I’m bored out of my mind.’

‘What about your girlfriend? You’ve not really told me what’s happened to her.’

Slater looked down at the ground. ‘I don’t have a girlfriend. She was getting itchy feet before I started this job, and then, once I was away for a few nights, it became obvious it was never going to work. She wanted her cake, and she wanted to eat it.’

‘So you chose the job over her?’

‘If you want to put it like that. I want a partner, I don’t want to be involved with someone who just wants to keep me in a cage and manipulate me. Anyway, what’s she got to do with anything?’

Dr Newsome put down her pen and looked at him levelly. ‘Do you have a problem with women?’

Slater gawped at her. ‘What? Why do you ask that?’

‘I’m just curious to understand why you’ve never settled down.’

‘Is that really relevant to me going back to work? Or are you just being nosey?’

She bobbed her head to acknowledge his point.

‘You show me a happily married copper,’ he continued, ‘and I’ll show you dozens who have been divorced at least once. It goes with the job. It seems to me that if you don’t get married, you won’t have to go through the hassle of a divorce.’

She looked at him for a long moment, and Slater dropped his eyes to the floor again.

‘Tell me how you feel about Jenny now.’

‘I don’t actually seem to feel anything,’ he said.

‘Aren’t you worried about where she is?’

‘Not particularly. She’s an adult and she’s made her choice. No one asked her to go.’

‘Are you saying you don’t care about her at all? But wasn’t she living with you?’

‘Yes, but she was just using me, that’s all.’ Slater shifted uncomfortably in his chair under the scrutiny of the psychologist, who he knew was studying him carefully. He was struggling to put his feelings into words. In fact, he was struggling to find any feelings towards his former girlfriend, and he was experiencing the uncomfortable realisation that maybe he just didn’t have any feelings for anything right now. But then if he said as much, would it condemn him to even more weeks of inactivity?

‘You don’t seem to know what to say,’ she said. ‘I want to help you, but I can’t put words into your mouth.’

‘I can form my own words, thank you,’ he muttered.

‘But you don’t seem to be able to.’

‘Maybe I just don’t feel anything,’ he blurted out.

‘And that’s normal for you, is it? I understood one of your qualities was empathy. You can’t have empathy if you don’t have feelings.’

Slater looked down at his hands. He realised he was picking at his fingernails.

‘You’ve been doing that ever since you sat down,’ Dr Newsome said. ‘Is this something new? Or am I making you nervous today?’

He ignored the question and turned his attention to her legs for a few seconds. He had spent a lot of time studying her legs during these sessions, so he already knew they were very long – and very shapely – but it didn’t hurt to be reminded once again.

‘I just don’t seem to be able to get past it. I need my job to focus upon,’ he said eventually, looking up at her. ‘It’s like my brain’s going to waste, and I can’t sleep, because every time I close my eyes I just see Diana falling away from me.’

‘It’s called post-traumatic stress disorder,’ Dr Newsome said. ‘It’s not unusual after such an incident. It’s much better to face up to it and deal with it rather than trying to ignore it.’

‘Ignore it?’ Slater gave a hollow laugh. ‘Believe me, I’d give my right arm to ignore it. The problem is, right now I have nothing else to think about. That’s why I need to get back to work. Thinking about a case will drive all thoughts of Diana away.’

‘But you can’t go back to work until I’m convinced you’re coping.’

‘So what now? Are we just going to go round in circles?’

Dr Newsome smiled. ‘Sometimes that’s how these sessions work. We ride the merry-go-round until I’m sure you’re ready to step off.’

Slater sighed again. ‘Yes, I think I understand the concept. I’m just not convinced.’

‘Not convinced about what?’

He picked at his fingernails again.

‘Not convinced I can help you? Or not convinced you want to be helped?’ Dr Newsome asked.

Slater tried to stifle a yawn but couldn’t. ‘These damned pills you prescribed do nothing but make me sleep. I can’t see how they help.’

‘I thought you just said you couldn’t sleep,’ she said. ‘It sounds to me as if you’re not actually taking the pills as prescribed.’

Slater looked guiltily back down at his hands.

‘They won’t help if you don’t take them.’

‘But they turn me into a zombie. I can’t drive in that state.’

‘You’re not supposed to be driving if you’re taking them!’

‘Exactly,’ said Slater. ‘How else can I get around? Have you tried catching a bus lately?’

‘I thought you had your friend staying with you?’ Dr Newsome asked.

‘Well, yeah, he is, but he’s not there just to drive me around all the time. He’s still got his own life to live.’

‘But the tablets are there to help you sleep. We all need sleep, even you.’ Dr Newsome sat back in her chair and crossed her legs. ‘I can’t work with you if you won’t work with me.’

‘I just want to get on with my life and get back to work.’

‘And that is our shared dilemma,’ she told him. ‘Because, believe it or not, that’s what I want too. The thing is, I’m the one with the power to say if it’s going to happen or not. And let me be honest – do you think I’m likely to give you the all-clear if you won’t cooperate?’

‘Aww, come on, Andrea, I’m going mad here!’

Her lips twitched for just a moment. ‘It’s Dr Newsome, as you well know,’ she said. ‘It would be unethical and unprofessional for me to encourage a familiar relationship with one of my clients.’

Slater grinned. ‘How about if I promise to take the sleeping pills every night? Will you let me go back to work then?’

‘And how will I know you’re taking them?’ she asked. ‘And before you ask, no, I will not come to your room every night to make sure.’

Slater blushed guiltily. Was he really so transparent?

‘Yes, you can be quite transparent,’ she said, as if she had read his mind. ‘Perhaps if you didn’t stare at my legs all the time.  .  .’

Slater squirmed under her gaze and the silence seemed to stretch out for hours. 

‘We haven’t spoken about DS Brearley much, have we?’ Dr Newsome asked suddenly. ‘How do you get on with her?’

Slater shrugged. ‘She’s very competent.’

‘That’s rather noncommittal. She speaks very highly of you. She was very quick to speak in your defence. Very loyal.’

Slater felt a touch guilty. ‘I’ve not worked with her for long,’ he said, ‘but I believe she’s probably as good a DS as I’m ever likely to work with.’

‘That’s high praise indeed,’ Dr Newsome said. ‘So she has made an impression. Do you enjoy being with her?’

‘I enjoy working with her. If you’re trying to suggest there’s anything else going on, you’re wrong.’

‘Would you like there to be something else going on? After all, she is very attractive. I can’t believe you haven’t noticed.’

Slater couldn’t prevent the wry smile that accompanied his next line. ‘It would be unethical and unprofessional for me to encourage a familiar relationship  .  .  .’

She smiled. ‘I’m sorry. My professional curiosity is getting the better of me. I don’t mean to pry.’

‘That’s okay. You can pry as much as you want, there’s nothing to find there.’

She studied his face for a moment, then she seemed to make a decision. ‘Okay, here’s the deal,’ she said with a reassuring smile. ‘I’ll admit the pills you currently take deliver a pretty hefty dose, but I am prepared to give you a new, weaker prescription if you promise you will take them every night. They will help you sleep, but they won’t knock you for six.

‘I also insist you add my phone number to your mobile phone before you leave here, because your second promise is to ring me once a week to let me know how you’re doing, and call me at any time if you feel you’re not coping. That’s any time, night or day, I want to know, right?’

Slater couldn’t quite believe his ears. He had been convinced she was going to say no. ‘Really? I can go back to work?’

‘If you agree to my conditions and keep those two promises.’

‘Of course I will! I’ll even get my DS to make sure I take the tablets every night.’

‘I mean it about the phone calls. Don’t just pay lip service to it. If you do have a problem, I won’t be able to help you if you keep it to yourself. If I send you back and it goes pear-shaped, you’ll be back on assessment for months, and there won’t be a thing I can do to stop it.’

‘What happens now?’ asked Slater. ‘How soon can I start?’

‘I will speak to your boss this afternoon and send him my report. The final decision is his, but he’s never argued with one of my assessments before. As for how soon, that’s up to him, but I’m sure he won’t keep you waiting long.’

CHAPTER TWO

Norman Norman had been friends with Slater for more than three years. They had hit it off more or less from the day they started working together, and now he regarded Slater as his best friend.

When he had heard Slater needed help after the traumatic conclusion of his last case, he had immediately volunteered to move into his spare room, and that’s how he came to be living there now. 

He had just parked his car and puffed his way to the front door, laden with shopping. As he opened the door, he could hear the telephone ringing. He rushed through the door, slamming it shut behind him, dropped the bags of shopping on the floor, and grabbed the phone. ‘Hello?’

He listened as the caller made his introduction. It was Bradshaw, Dave Slater’s boss.

‘You’ve got some front, calling here,’ said Norman.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘I suppose you want to speak to Dave? Well, tough, he’s not here.’

‘I know he’s not there,’ Bradshaw said. ‘I’m rather hoping he’s attending his assessment appointment right now. That’s why I’m calling. It’s you I want to speak to. I need your help.’

‘What about the investigation? You’re hanging Dave out to dry, and you want me to help you? What kind of a friend do you think I am?’ Norman said angrily.

‘It rather sounds as though you’re a misinformed one,’ replied Bradshaw calmly. ‘I’m not sure where you get your information, but I’m afraid you seem to have the wrong end of the stick. A suspect dies, Professional Standards investigate. You should have been around long enough to know how this works.’

‘Now you’re talking in riddles,’ said Norman. ‘I’m talking about the disciplinary investigation.’

‘The riddles seem to be coming from your direction. There is no disciplinary investigation.’

Norman was quiet for a moment. ‘I’m not with you. I was told Dave was going to be the subject of a disciplinary–‘

‘Oh, I see. And I suppose you got this news from  .  .  .’

‘I’m not revealing my sources,’ said Norman hastily. ‘I’m not going to give you an excuse to pick on someone else.’

‘Now just a minute,’ Bradshaw said. ‘You really have got the wrong end of the stick. I’m not picking on anybody. You should know me well enough from the old days to know I’m not like that. I never have been, and I never will be. Detective Inspector Slater is not, I repeat, not, under investigation. Detective Sergeant Brearley is also not under investigation, and she will not be under investigation, even if she is the person who has wrongly informed you.’

‘What about this rumour I’ve heard?’

‘That’s all it was. Someone, somewhere heard Detective Inspector Styles complaining because they had lost a murderer. That someone then decided to blow things out of all proportion, and before you know it, there’s a rumour doing the rounds. I’ve spoken to Styles myself and he has assured me that although he was very angry at the time because they had a sure-fire conviction, he doesn’t blame Slater for what happened, and he has no intention of making any formal complaint.’

‘Are you sure about this?’

‘Of course I am, and I’m disappointed you feel the need to doubt me.’

Norman felt somewhat uncomfortable as he thought about this. He had worked with Bradshaw many years ago, and it was true the man had a reputation for looking after his officers. Maybe they had all been a bit too quick to judge him and jump to Dave’s defence.

‘I’ve known Dave for a few years now,’ Norman said, more reasonably now. ‘He’s more than just an old colleague. He’s probably the best friend I’ve ever had, so I’m always ready to cover his back if there’s shit heading his way.’

‘I understand that,’ said Bradshaw, ‘which is exactly why I’ve come to you to ask for your help.’

‘What sort of help?’

Bradshaw sighed. ‘I understand he got rather attached to Jenny Radstock.’

‘You know very well he did, but that relationship ran its course and died a death while he was away. I think he realised she was going to be much too demanding. I believe he may even have told her to clear off.’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘I get the feeling he was expecting her to have moved out when he got back. He just didn’t seem too bothered that she had gone. In fact, he still doesn’t seem to care.’

‘Have you talked to him about it?’

‘It’s quite difficult to talk to him about anything, really,’ said Norman. ‘He’s still pretty touchy about having to see a shrink and be assessed. Right now, he seems to think everyone is involved in this assessment, and he tends to view all questions with suspicion.’

‘It’s just standard procedure after an incident of that nature,’ Bradshaw said quickly.

‘Hey, you don’t need to explain that to me. I’m not the one who doesn’t understand it’s for his own good. The problem is, all this hanging around is driving him crazy. He just wants to get back to work.’

‘Do you think he’s ready?’

‘It’s probably just what he needs, but it’s not up to me, is it?’

‘I spoke to the psychologist yesterday,’ said Bradshaw. ‘She says he’s as good as ready, so fingers crossed, maybe he’ll do enough to convince her this morning.’

‘Let’s hope so,’ said Norman. ‘Anyway, what was it you wanted me to do?’

‘I want you to find Jenny.’

Norman laughed. ‘Are you kidding? If Dave doesn’t want her around, he’s not going to be too happy if I bring her back, is he?’

‘I don’t want you to bring her back. I just want to know where she is. Right now, she seems to have gone completely off the radar.’

‘Maybe she’s gone off the radar because she doesn’t want to be found. Have you thought of that?’

‘Yes, I have. If that’s the case, then so be it, but I want to know for sure, and I think Slater would want to know too, deep down.’

‘How come she disappeared anyway?’ Norman asked. ‘I thought you were watching her.’

‘After the first month with Slater, we were quite satisfied she was no longer being watched or followed, so I stood my people down.’

‘I see. Was that a mistake?’

‘So far, I’ve no reason to believe it was, but I can’t deny that the fact she’s disappeared is a concern. The thing is, I couldn’t justify spending the money on what was really a favour to her parents.’

‘It was never an official protection job?’

‘Let’s just say I was bending a few rules.’

‘Well, I can tell you now, she hasn’t left any clues here. I’ve been all over the place ,and there’s absolutely nothing to tell us where she’s gone,’ said Norman.

‘No one just vanishes into thin air. I’m sure she hasn’t left the country, so she must be here somewhere.’

‘Until we have some sign, I have no idea where to start. You’re the guy with the resources. If you can’t find her, how the hell can I?’ Norman asked.

‘The minute she switches her phone on, I shall know,’ said Bradshaw.

‘You realise she could easily have ditched it. She’s probably got her hands on a new one by now.’

‘Yes, that thought has crossed my mind, but I’m hoping there’s some other reason she’s not used it.’

‘She’s not stupid,’ Norman said. ‘She knows she can be tracked by that phone. My guess is she’s not used it because she doesn’t want anyone to find her.’

‘Look,’ Bradshaw said, sounding weary, ‘I know it’s a long shot, but it’s worth a try.’

‘I suppose if you could give me somewhere to start, I might be prepared to try to find her,’ said Norman grudgingly. ‘But what am I supposed to tell Dave?’

‘Let me worry about him.’

‘You’ll need to get him out of the way somehow or he’s going to know what I’m up to, and he’ll want to come along and help.’

‘He’ll get the all-clear to come back to work today, and when he does, I have a job lined up for him that will keep him out of the way for a while.’

‘You sound very confident he’s going to be passed fit for work,’ Norman said thoughtfully.

‘Like I said, I spoke to his doctor yesterday  .  .  .’

‘Oh, I get it. You’ve told her to send him back to work, right?’

‘You’ll help me? That’s a definite yes, is it?’ asked Bradshaw, ignoring Norman’s question.

‘I’ll think about it, but I need to know how this is gonna work. I mean, I’m not a charity. I need to make a living.’

‘You’ll be working for me as a special detective. Let’s call it a consultant position. I’ll send you a contract so it’s all above board.’

‘Do I get a badge?’ Norman asked eagerly. ‘It’s much easier to ask questions when there’s a badge involved. It makes it more official.’

‘Yes, you do get a badge, but you won’t be a police officer. Anyone who looks closely at the badge will know that, and they won’t have to speak to you if they don’t want to.’

Norman thought for a moment. ‘You know, technically I am still recovering from a heart attack, so I’m going to need some help.’

‘Who do you have in mind?’

‘I’m assuming you will put Watson with Dave to keep an eye on him and let me know if he starts to get suspicious.’

‘Correct,’ said Bradshaw. ‘If you were hoping for her help, I’m afraid you’ll have to manage without her.’

‘That’s okay. I’d rather she was watching Dave. I have someone else in mind to work with me.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘Her name is Naomi Darling,’ said Norman. ‘She’s just quit the force, but she’s good at what she does, and she’s a good foil for me.’

‘I don’t think I know her,’ said Bradshaw.

‘That’s not a problem. I know her, and I trust her. And I know you can trust her.’

There was silence on the line as Bradshaw considered, then finally he spoke.

‘Alright, if it means I get your help, that’s good enough for me.’

‘She’ll need a contract too.’

Bradshaw sighed. ‘I’ll draw up a contract for her too.’

‘And you will make sure Dave is out of the way?’.

‘Consider it done. I think you’ll find Detective Inspector Slater will be much happier when he gets home today.’

‘Okay, you come back to me when you’ve got him out of the way.’

‘Is that a yes?’

‘It’s a probably,’ said Norman. ‘Get Dave out of the way, get those contracts set up, and give me somewhere to start. Then we might just have a deal.’

* * *

Detective Sergeant Samantha Brearley, aka Watson, was Slater’s partner. She had been educated at a private girl’s school and gone on to join the army, where she discovered the joys of detective work in the RMP. After leaving the army, she joined the police force, where her career was nearly ended by a bullet that shattered one of her knees.

However, Watson wasn’t one for giving up. She insisted her surgeon replace her shattered knee with a new one, which she told everyone was her ‘bionic knee’ and would enable her to get back to work. True to her word, she had done exactly that and was as now as fit as anyone.

If asked what he thought of her, Slater would have described her as tall, athletic, and good-looking, in a ‘posh bird’ sort of way. He also thought she was a great partner to work with: intelligent, thoughtful, and well-organised. If he was feeling particularly honest, he would even admit she was probably the best partner he could possibly have.

She could, however, be rather straight-laced at times, and he enjoyed pointing this out and ribbing her at every opportunity. She took all this in the spirit it was intended and actually enjoyed the banter, which was something she had never encountered before.

She had learnt very quickly that Slater was happy to take it as well as dish it out. She knew that if she bided her time, she would always get an opportunity to get her own back – and she always did. Watson thought working alongside Slater was probably the happiest she had ever been at work.

They had decided over the phone that there was no point in taking two cars and had decided to use Slater’s. Watson regarded this as a bonus because he owned a Range Rover and was usually happy to let her drive. How often was a girl likely to get such an opportunity?

‘Where to, Watson?’ he asked as he bundled her case into the back of the car.

‘North,’ she said. ‘We’re off to Northumberland.’

‘You realise that’s where Norman was sent when he was in exile for three years, don’t you? He says it’s nothing but open moorland and sheep. And there are no people.’

‘I think you’ll find that’s a slight exaggeration. We’ve got an old murder to investigate, and you can’t have murders without people, can you?’

‘You can tell me about it on the way.’

‘If you let me drive, you can read about it,’ she said. ‘That way you can make sure you don’t miss any the details.’

Slater grinned. ‘You realise it’s going to take us hours to drive that far?’

She smiled back at him. ‘I certainly do, but you know you get bored driving.’

‘But I’m not bored yet. You ride shotgun until we stop for lunch, and we’ll swap places after that. Until then, you can read me a story about an old murder case.’

Books in the Slater & Norman series

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.