This is a sneaky peek of my squeaky new book continuing the Friendship Can Be Murder saga. I’m currently writing book 4 which will be called Dirty Work.
Whereas the first three books are written by Cressida in her diary/journal thingy, now it’s her hubby Matt’s turn to take over the story:
(Warning – contains lots of naughty words…)
Friday 2nd June. 2.25pm
In the front of my wife’s old journals, there’s always some romantic dedication, full of love and promises of devotion. I did one for her, years ago, and I know her first husband did some too.
Now I’ve got my own journal, and all it says in the front is 99p from Last Chance Book Bargains: your last chance to buy ’em cheap! Really cheap too, there’s a calendar in the front with two 27th Februaries.
And instead of sitting in comfort in the sunroom at home like she does, here I am, stuck in the cab of my van, writing a quick sneaky note as I wait to find out what my dad is getting up to.
‘Matt,’ he said to me one day last week, ‘Could you give us a lift to the New Mills Industrial Park? I’ve arranged to see someone about something next Friday afternoon, ‘bout twoish.’
Well, I don’t mind doing things for my dad—we get on well, he’s not as young as he was, and he’s always been there for me, even when I was in prison. But he was acting dead cagey, so naturally I was onto him.
‘What’s it about?’ I asked him. He just tapped the side of his nose.
‘No need for you to get involved, mate. I just need a lift, and don’t go mentioning it to your mother.’
Nothing sets off alarm bells like my dad telling me he’s up to something I can’t tell my mum about. What’s the old bugger getting up to now? At first I thought it might be some kind of birthday surprise he’s got planned for her. But to be honest, I doubt he even remembers when her birthday is, after only forty-two years of wedded bliss. It’s like the keycode on her phone. He needed to use her phone, and it was locked. So he asked her for the code, and she (very cleverly as it turns out) said, ‘Just key in the code. It’s our wedding date.’
So obviously he was completely stumped. Not big on remembering anniversaries or birthdays, or… just anything really. He only ever knows approximates. He knows mum’s birthday is in June. He doesn’t know it’s the 6th. I reckon he’d be hard-pressed to tell you when Christmas Day is, or Valentine’s, either…
Speaking of which…
It’s our 10th anniversary on the 18th August, and I need to start planning something special. Ten years! Bloody hell! Where did the time go? I’m thinking maybe a romantic trip away—wonder if she’d like to go to Paris. Or maybe Rome? Or we could go to New York. I wonder if I can get Mum to ask a few leading questions for me, so it’s still a surprise but I know it’s one she’s going to like? I really want to spoil her. Think I’ll get her some flowers this weekend, she loves flowers. I’ll get some roses, or something decent like that, not any of those cheap-ass garage bunches, neither.
And Cressida is so gorgeous. I can’t believe my luck. Sometimes I just look at her and think…
‘What the arse, Matt? Get a move on, mate, me stomach thinks me throat’s been cut.’
That was Dad, ruining the moment as usual. But it made me laugh, him saying that just then. He looked pretty pleased with himself, but I’m not going to ask again. If he doesn’t want me to know, then I just don’t care what he’s getting up to.
So as I started off saying, I’m writing in a journal, just like Cressida used to, or maybe still does. I don’t know, it just seems like a good idea to be able to get stuff out of my system, you know? Get it off my chest. When things bother me. Therapy, that’s what it’s called, innit, and we all need that these days, what with COVID, Ukraine being attacked by Russia, just everything.
And it’s been a tough few years. My mum’s been poorly, though hopefully with this new medication and everything she’ll be all right. They said her prognosis, her outlook is good, so…
Then there’s the kids. They take it out of you, even when they’re good. You have to run them around, taking ‘em to this thing and that thing. Sports things, maths stuff, science this and amateur dramatics that, and to their friends’ houses. Practically every night of the week someone has to be dropped off somewhere. Cress has one of those big planners on the wall in the kitchen to keep track of it all. It’s like some kind of military campaign or a manoeuvre, planning where to be at a specific place at a set time. I half expect to see her with a map on the dining table and her pushing boats across it with a pool cue like they did during the war.
And they’re all at secondary school now, too. They won’t be kids much longer. And they’ve all got way too much attitude. Cress is the only constant thing in my universe—she don’t seem to change much.
Then there’s Dad. What the hell is he getting up to? But I won’t give him the satisfaction of asking him again, though you can bet he wants me to. That grin of his says it all. He’s up to something, and like as not it’ll be a bit dodgy.
Me and my mate Posh Tim (they’re all bloody posh round here if you ask me) are off fishing in the first thing in the morning—really first thing. I mean, who wants to get up at 4am on a Saturday? Me, apparently, like an idiot.
‘Get ‘em when they’re biting,’ says Tim. At least he’s driving, I can snooze in the passenger seat of his brand new Land Rover till we get there. Usually Paddy goes with us, but not this time.
‘Get up at four?’ he said. ‘In the morning? I won’t even have been to bed by then!’
Up all night gaming, I should think. I don’t even know what game it is anymore, they’ve all changed and moved on without me. I can remember when playing a computer game meant racing go-karts around a track. Now it’s all squid things and war-type stuff. I don’t know. Don’t see the appeal myself, it doesn’t seem much fun anymore. It’s intense.
So yeah. I needed the way to just offload it all, like Cressida used to in her diaries or notebooks or whatever. Or maybe she still does. Except I haven’t noticed her scribbling furiously away for a while now. Maybe she doesn’t get so wound about stuff anymore? If it worked for her, it might work for me.
Oh, the shower’s just gone off, she’ll be coming to bed in a minute, all warm and softly scented. I won’t be writing anything else tonight!
Mustn’t forget them flowers.
I think I’ve caught a cold from fishing in the middle of the night. Cressida just laughed and said, in her posh voice, ‘Don’t be silly darling, colds are viruses. You can’t catch one just by getting cold.’
Well, I was freezing my arse off by half past six yesterday morning. And did we get so much as a single solitary bite? Did we hell!
When I got back home at lunchtime, to soup and sandwiches which I can tell you were very welcome, the ‘girls’ – Cress, Mum and Billy laughed pretty much until they were sick, and I doubt I’ll ever hear the end of it, going out ‘in the middle of the night’ as Cress calls, and coming home later with nothing to show for all that time.
My mum said, ‘Well at least you didn’t do what your dad does and buy some fish at the supermarket on your way home and try to pass it off as all your own work!’
‘Speaking of which,’ I said, ‘Where is the old…’
I couldn’t say what I’d normally say as Tom walked in just then, and even though I’m pretty sure all my kids use worse language than me, when I’m with the missus, I have to watch what I say.
My youngest son’s a strange one. Super bright with anything technical, useless at maths and English and whatnot. I don’t think he’ll ever get any qualifications in any subject that needs essays, but if he has to strip down an engine or put together some flat pack furniture, I reckon he’ll get a doctorate.
Anyway, my dad.
When I asked where he was, my mum just sort of peered round me like I’d been standing in front of him the whole time to hide him from her. ‘I thought he was with you,’ she said.
‘What? No, there was never any…’
‘But that’s what he said,’ Mum said, and she was proper perplexed now. She and Cressida exchanged a look. ‘Well, where’s he got to then?’
‘Search me,’ I said. ‘He’s up to something.’ Then too late, I remembered he’d told me not to say a word to Mum. Annoyed with myself, I tried to blag it out. ‘Oh yes, he did say he might have to, you know, go to see, er…’ I ran out of ideas. Mum just gave me one of her looks.
‘Oh, did he now?’
Now I’m guessing I’ve properly dropped Dad in it.
So what is he up to?
It was almost dinner time when he came home. Mum was up to her neck in cooking something with lots of garlic and red wine – it smelt wonderful, made me feel ravenous. But I had other things on my mind. I knew I had about twenty minutes before I had to be at the table, hands washed, and in a clean jumper. I cornered Dad in the garage.
‘Where the hell have you been? I’ve been covering for you all bloody afternoon.’ Not exactly true, but close enough. He just glared at me.
‘Don’t give me that. Your so-called attempt at giving me an alibi went right out the window. And I told you, I’m not telling you.’
‘What?’ It took me a minute. ‘Oh well, I wasn’t ready. You know what it’s like when you’re faced with all three of the girls. They gang up on you. Next time you want me to cover for you, let me know in time to come up with something.’
‘Right then,’ he said.
And he walked off. I still don’t know what he’s up to. It’s really starting to make me fume.