The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel is the 2nd book in the Vinyl Detective series.
Read an excerpt from The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win BOTH Vinyl Detective mysteries!
His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second the search for a lost child. Specifically the child of Valerian, lead singer of a great rock band of the 1960s, who hanged herself in mysterious circumstances after the boy’s abduction.
Along the way, the Vinyl Detective finds himself marked for death, at the wrong end of a shotgun, and unknowingly dosed with LSD as a prelude to being burned alive. And then there’s the grave robbing…
We drove out of London past the art deco elegance of the old Hoover Building and droned up the M11 towards Cambridge, turning off at Saffron Walden. Then we wound around the secondary roads, passing through smaller and smaller towns and then finally villages. We cruised past autumn fields and an old church, finally ending up on a winding rural lane.
“We’re here,” I said.
We drove in through a narrow wooden gateway between hedges with a sign on the side that said ST JUDE’S COTTAGE. As we crunched up the driveway we saw another sign that said THE SINGLES BARN.
Then one that said TRESPASSERS WILL BE GOOSED.
The gravel drive ran in a straight line from the gateway then opened up in a broad circle around a patch of unruly long grass with a pond in the centre of it, reflecting the milky afternoon sky. An elegant old Victorian park bench, painted green, looked out on the pond. We parked in a paved area on the left of the farmhouse. Over on the right, beyond some gardens, was the barn.
I say ‘gardens’ plural because the place was a patchwork grid of them. It had once been farmland but now the fields around the dwellings had been subdivided into small units of hand-cultivated land. Some were planted with flowers and decorative shrubs, still showing a surprising amount of colour this late in the year. Others were devoted to fruit or vegetables. They were all irregular, interlocking shapes, like a jigsaw puzzle with its pieces set loosely together. Crazy curves of gravel paths led between them. The effect was less that of an ornamental garden than a very bohemian kibbutz.
We got out and stretched our legs.
“This is brilliant,” said Nevada, looking around. “I love this place. Can we explore?”
“Actually,” I said—and just then her phone rang. She checked the number and showed me. Nic Vardy.
“I’d better take this,” she said, moving away from the car. Of course… I remembered we’d given Vardy our numbers yesterday and asked him to get in touch when he’d succeeded in finding some of his photos of Valerian and/or managed to jog his memory of events of that last fateful weekend when Valerian had died and her little boy had vanished.
I’d never actually expected to hear from him again, so this was a result. While Nevada was talking I went to the door of the farmhouse and knocked. Tinkler came and hovered at my shoulder. “Is no one in?” he said anxiously.
“Give them a chance,” I said, and knocked again.
“Aren’t they supposed to be in?”
“Yes.” I knocked again. I was beginning to have a terrible sense of déjà vu.
“I don’t think they’re in,” said Tinkler.
“No.” We turned away from the front door and walked back onto the driveway. Nevada finished her call and looked at me. “That was old dye-job Vardy.”
“So I gather.”
“He’s managed to dig up a few pictures, just a few so far, but he’s sending them to us.”
“That’s nice of him,” I said.
“They’re not actually of Valerian.”
“No, of course not.”
“So, no nudes?” said Tinkler despondently.
“No,” said Nevada. “And before you ask, no I didn’t have a chance to ask him about your print. The time didn’t seem right.”
“Fair enough,” said Tinkler, stretching and yawning.
“He told me they weren’t actually pictures of Valerian herself,” Nevada continued, “but they were all, as he put it, relevant. Ah, here are the images now.” She watched her phone for a moment, then showed it to us. The first picture was the one we had already seen of Cecilia, Valerian’s sister. The next one was of a very skinny and very hairy young man in a tie-dyed tank top intently playing an electric guitar. It was a moody black and white shot, full of energy.
“That’s a classic.” Tinkler studied it happily.
“Who is he?” asked Nevada.
“Eric McCloud,” I said. “Lead guitarist in the band. Valerian nicknamed him Eric Make Loud and he adopted it. That’s what he’s called himself ever since.”
“Except now he spells Erik with a ‘k’,” said Tinkler. “Because he thinks it makes him sound more like a Teutonic heavy metal guitar god.”
“Is he a complete tosser?” said Nevada. “He sounds like a complete tosser.”
Tinkler shook his head vigorously. “On the contrary. He is a guitar god. He played with Zappa.”
“Oh well, if he played with Zappa,” said Nevada, scrolling through the photos on her screen. There were six more shots of Erik Make Loud in action, taken at various gigs. She moved through these quickly then stopped at the next image, which was of a gravestone in a rural churchyard. It was covered with bouquets of flowers, candles, photographs, scraps of writing, condolence cards, toys, dolls and teddy bears, wine and spirit bottles and sad little offerings of food.
“This one is self-explanatory,” she said. “Her grave, yes? The poor thing. And they’ve turned it into a shrine, her fans.” She looked at me. “Where is this?”
“Canterbury,” I said. “That’s where her family came from. The Drummonds.”
“And it’s where the band came from,” said Tinkler. “They were part of the Canterbury scene.”
“It’s so sad, isn’t it?” she said, peering at the picture.
“We have a shrine like that near where we live,” I said. “In Gipsy Lane. For Marc Bolan.”
“Except that’s to mark the spot where he actually died,” said Tinkler.
“Or at least where his car crashed.”
“All right, anyway, so that one’s self-explanatory.” Nevada flipped to the next photo. “But what is this?” She showed it to me. Another moody black and white composition, a study in contrasts. But this one was a landscape shot of a mammoth gnarled oak tree looming in shadow, as full of sinister character as anything ever drawn by Arthur Rackham. Nevada looked at me. “Why has he sent a picture of a tree?”
A sound suddenly arose on the other side of the farmhouse, in the direction of the barn. It was a furious, diabolical honking, quite savage and almost machine-like in its intensity. For a moment none of us knew what the hell was happening and then, dashing along the winding path between two vegetable plots, came the rotund white shape of a goose, wings spread wide in a display of aggression. It ran off the path and onto the driveway and came straight at us, running with big flapping steps of its clumsy feet, neck extended and head held high.
We began to back away as it came surging and flailing towards us. It honked again, a nerve-shredding shriek like a steam whistle on steroids. It sounded angry.
“Holy shit,” said Nevada in alarm. We all turned and fled, taking shelter on the far side of Tinkler’s car.
“They weren’t kidding about getting goosed,” said Tinkler.
The goose came to a wary halt beside the car, peering around at us with its long neck extended. Its gaze looked strangely cross-eyed, which did nothing to diminish the alarming nature of its appearance. Or rather, her appearance.
“Hello, Gwenevere,” I said, “don’t you remember me?” I took a tentative step out from the shelter of the car and moved towards her, hand extended. See? I come in peace.
She surged forward, bristling with hostility, and I jerked back.
“Evidently not,” murmured Nevada.
We stayed put, the three of us huddled behind the minimal shelter of Tinkler’s car, and Gwenevere began to behave like she’d cornered us there. Which, thinking about it, I suppose she had. She strutted around, keeping an eye on us, never venturing far from the car and the spot where we cowered. After sizing us up from a variety of angles, that eager, watchful head extended on its long neck, she settled down into a rhythm of patrol. She was on guard, marching around us in an exaggerated military fashion for all the world like a Nazi stormtrooper; it made you realise how accurate the term ‘goose stepping’ was.
“Can we get into the car?” suggested Nevada.“I think the moment we begin to move, she’s going to charge at us.”
“This is just like that novel by Stephen King,” said Tinkler. “Except it’s a stupid goose instead of a huge rabid dog.”
It’s interesting to speculate how long we would have stood there, three grown people, frozen, surrounded by a single goose. But then there was the rumbling of an engine, and a once bright yellow but now very grubby Volvo estate nosed through the gate and turned into the driveway. Freddie and Magda were grinning at us through the mud-spattered windscreen. I suspected that it was not the first time they’d come home to a scene such as this.
They parked their car beside the pond and got out and wandered towards us in a leisurely fashion.
“So she got you cornered, eh?” said Freddie. He was dressed in his usual corduroys—baggy maroon trousers and a mustard-coloured jacket. I couldn’t see if his shirt was corduroy, but if he’d managed to find one it would be. Corduroy socks and undergarments didn’t bear thinking about. He still had the silly Edwardian mutton chop sideburns he affected. I was amazed that Magda tolerated them.
The goose backed away from us until she was standing between Freddie and Magda and then, never looking away from us, she began to make a low, conversational gabbling sound, as if she was reporting back to them about our conduct.
“Is it safe to come out?” said Nevada.
“Sure,” said Magda, “her bark is worse than her bite.”
“Her honk is worse than her hit,” said Freddie.
“Come and give me a hug,” said Magda. She was a plump, freckled woman who wore an assortment of hand-knitted jumpers, long Indian-looking skirts and woolly hats, often all at once. She came from Munich and after living in England for years her German accent was faint but still in evidence. I went and hugged her, breathing in the scent of apples. I wondered if it was shampoo or actual apples. She released me and looked at Nevada. “And this is your new lady friend?”
“I keep him out of trouble,” said Nevada.
“Come, you have a hug too. When Gwenevere sees us hugging she’ll know you’re friends and she’ll leave you alone.” Nevada seemed a little sceptical, but willing to try anything. She emerged gingerly from our hiding place behind the car and gave Magda a hug.
“Do I get a hug, too?” said Tinkler.
“Yes. Even you.”
The ridiculous thing is, it seemed to work. As soon as Magda and I had broken our clinch the goose came over to me and leaned against my legs. She made a few gentle gargling sounds, craning her head to look at me as though to say, Sorry about that. No hard feelings.
“I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced,” said Freddie. “Or frightened.”
“You told me you were going to be at home.”
He shook his head. “I know, I know. We had to pop out for supplies. We were planning on getting back before you arrived and Gwenevere sprang on you. She’s better than any watchdog, eh?”
“She certainly is,” said Nevada, keeping a wary eye on the goose.
Freddie stroked Gwenevere’s sleek head. “We’ve had a problem with local kids breaking in. Probably on a dare, raiding the garden, that sort of thing.”
“Like apple scrumping,” said Magda, savouring the odd English idiom. “Just kids having fun. Harmless.”
“It won’t be so harmless if they break into the barn and get at my stock,” said Freddie. “Anyway, Gwenevere makes short work of them whenever they come around.”
“I’ll bet she does,” said Nevada.
Magda opened the back of the Volvo and began to take out trays of small green plants. They’d evidently been shopping at the local garden centre. As she took them out Freddie hastily said, “Let me show you around the place,” in a transparent attempt to avoid helping his other half with the unloading. He led us down the same path from which the goose had so recently and so furiously emerged. The barn loomed towards us over rows of bamboo poles covered with what looked like string beans.
It was a tall, modern structure of pale, unstained wood. It stood on the site of an original farm barn but had been rebuilt from the ground up. Above its wide doors a looping red neon sign read singles bar. A large yellow neon N in a completely different font completed the name. The unpowered neon tubing appeared pale and sickly in the daylight. At night it looked great.
“Oh, the singles barn,” said Nevada. “I get it.”
“Duh,” said Tinkler, making a drooling cretin face, and Nevada punched him on the arm.
“So that entire structure,” she said, “is full of singles.”
“Yes,” said Freddie proudly.
“And our Valerian record is in there somewhere.”
“I think I will leave you gentlemen to it,” said Nevada.
Copyright © 2017 Andrew Cartmel.
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Run-Out Groove and Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel!
To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.
TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!
The Vinyl Detective Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/stories/2017/05/the-run-out-groove-new-excerpt-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 12, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 12:59 p.m. ET May 26, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter. His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who. He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books. He lives in London.