Island in Flames
The Isle of Man, normally a haven of tranquil living, is rocked by a series of unexplained house fires. When the bodies of an old couple are discovered in the burned-out shell of their home, the tension increases as it is learned that it wasn’t the fire that killed them.
Meanwhile, when Dick pays Rachel £300 for an hour of her time, Rachel has no inkling that he will be her last paying client. She never planned leaving this life in a pool of blood, but that’s the way her partner found her a couple of hours later.
The police are struggling to find sufficient resources to solve the house fires and Rachel’s murder. It is the fortnight when the Isle of Man hosts the world famous TT road races. All police leave is cancelled as the island’s population is augmented by 40,000 leather-clad bikers. It doesn’t help that a new police superintendent, who seems to be totally out of her depth, is running the show. Cathryn Brady, universally known as Miss Piggy, seems to be more interested in public opinion than in solving crime, and her senior officers have had enough.
Yet amongst the murder and mayhem, the baffling figure of Unicorn looms large, orchestrating events from deep in the shadows. Will Unicorn be exposed before the whole island goes up in flames? There’s only one way to find out.
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Unicorn brushed aside a cobweb and peered through the small, dirty window from the attic of the unoccupied old house. From here there was a clear view down into the bay windows of the house across the road. There was movement inside. It was just a hint of a shadow passing across the unlit living-room, but it was enough to know that the action had begun. Shortly after midnight, a tall man in a hoodie with a covered face exited the building by the front door. Moments later, the first of the flames were visible inside the living space. Unicorn’s pulse picked up pace, willing the fire to take hold before someone saw it and dialled 999. This was the first step in a plan – the opening salvo of deception and distortion. It was too late to turn back now. There would be another fire the following night, and others after that, but they would all lead to one programmed finale.
Fire was such a cleansing element. Very little could survive over 1,000 degrees centigrade and that meant that there was little risk of leaving behind evidence that the Isle of Man Constabulary could use to identify the culprit or culprits. Unicorn knew that, for the police, this would prove to be a near impossible challenge, but that’s the way they had thought it through. That’s the way it had to be if it was to succeed. The police would maybe have their suspicions, and they would make their enquiries, but they would have to wait. Everything would become clear in due course. Or almost everything.
The fire in the house took hold in no time. The man with the hoodie and the balaclava had left by the front door, leaving it open just a little. He’d not intended to, but it had the effect of feeding oxygen to the inferno. Shortly after, the blaze licked round the edges of the door and the porch burst into six-foot-high flames. Inside, the fire raced around like a caged animal trying to find other means to escape. It dashed through the rooms, growing as it found new material to feed from. A window burst with an explosion of glass, and black smoke billowed out in angry clouds, darker than the night.
Book cover design by Bruno Cavellec, Copyright © Bruno Cavellec 2021.
Image used and published according to the licence granted by the artist