Ice and fire

Ice and fire is Grace Tremayne’s new novel due out in December

ebook paperback

Four competitors finishing a gruelling last heat of the final of the Millennium competition of the Adventure Club, in a remote part of the Norwegian mountains, find their Club Steward stabbed to death with one of the contestant’s hunting knives, in the steam room of their Finishing Hut. When Inspector Sven Ffolkes is sent to investigate, he discovers that there appears to have been nobody else around who could have committed the murder. However, the progress of all four competitors was being monitored by the club’s computer, which was receiving location information from all of them. It showed them to be out on the course until the time the body was discovered.

His search for a solution takes him back to the Falklands war, then on to the Lanes in Brighton and the burglary of some famous Willow Jubilee jewellery from a fashionable London townhouse. Whereas Ffolkes’ investigation uncovers many motives, nobody appears to have had the opportunity to commit the crime. Could this possibly have been an opportunistic attack by a stranger?

Chapter 1 – 22nd March 2000 Sørfold Norway

Dr Steven Adams was cold, wet and tired by the time he arrived at the ticket machine located on the wall of the Finishing Hut. The hut marked the end of the course, but he had to take a ticket to confirm his finish time and position. It showed him in first place, having completed the course at 14:55:12. At least that was correct, unlike a lot of things about the final round, which he intended to have out with Jed Eames, the Contest Marshal.

Things had not gone the way he had expected from the Adventure Club. It was the premier club for Combateering, so it had to be the best. This included its competitions being run without hitch. Eames was in charge, so it was his responsibility to get things right, but he had not done the job properly. Competitors were supposed to hand their finishing ticket to him as they arrived.

Adams entered the hut intent on giving Eames a full account of his displeasure, but Eames was nowhere to be seen. He checked the lounge and kitchen to no avail. The urn had been turned on and was boiling nicely. He made himself a cup of coffee, took off his boots, helmet and combat suit, leaving them on the hanger, ready for assessment. He then showered, both to clean off the dirt of the night’s effort and to warm himself through.

There were jeans, a clean shirt, sweater, fresh socks and shoes for him to change into. The shower had not only warmed, but also relaxed, him. He slumped into a chair by the fire in the lounge with another coffee and dozed off. He woke 45 minutes later.

It was 15:35, with still no sign of Eames. He checked the changing area. Both the steam room and sauna were on. A pile of clothes lay neatly on a bench. He could see that the sauna was empty, so assumed Eames must be having a steam. There was no point in disturbing him in there.

Eames was sure to be out by the time the other contestants arrived. He would let him deal with the administration required to complete the contest and decide the placings. After that he would give him a piece of his mind.

He went back to the viewing area to watch for the others. Although it was a filthy, cloudy day there was enough light for him to see a tall, slim, female figure approaching the finishing post. From the outline he was sure it was Flo Davis, because the other two competitors were at least eight centimetres shorter. There was another figure, whom he could not make out, in the dim distance.

Davis came into the hut at 16:15, looking exhausted. The contest had taken everything out of her. He was now convinced she must be using performance enhancing drugs. He had seen this reaction before with sports stars taking PEDs. It gives extra energy and speed to start with but as it wears off, they get extremely tired. Davis should have arrived a good hour earlier. She must have been struggling very hard just to finish.

He took her laser weapon, helped her down to the sleeping area, removed her helmet, combat suit, boots and gloves, dried her as best he could, wrapped her in an extra blanket and left her to sleep. He put her kit in the storage area ready for assessment, left her fresh clothes by the bed, then went back to the lounge to wait for Eames and the other two competitors.

Ann Barnes arrived at 17:15.

‘Just us?’ she asked, sounding surprised.

‘No, Flo’s sleeping downstairs. She’s all in. No sign of Jan, though.’

Barnes placed her weapon in its dedicated position on the rack, left her kit and suit on her hangar, showered, changed into fresh clothes and went into the lounge with Adams. They had coffee. After about five minutes, she went downstairs.

‘Just going to check on Flo and pop to the loo.’

She came back up just as Jan Cotter arrived.

‘Flo’s spark out. Where’s Jed?’

‘Having a steam, I think. Tell you the truth, I’m a bit hacked off with him. He wasn’t here to welcome us and sort out the scores. Am I over-reacting?’

‘No, Steve, I agree with you. Jan, what do you think?’

‘I agree with both of you, but if he’s having a steam, I guess we have no choice but to let him finish in peace.’

‘It’s probably, more than he deserves, but okay,’ Adams conceded through clenched teeth.

After another twenty minutes, Adams had had enough. He headed for the steam room followed by Barnes. The sight that greeted him stopped him dead in his tracks. Eames was lying slumped back on a bench wearing just a towel around his waist. A hunting knife was protruding from his chest. There was blood oozing from under the knife and more splattered on the walls around him. Barnes could not believe what she was seeing. It made her feel sick and faint at the same time. She stepped back to sit on the nearest bench as a precaution in case she fainted. It was highly probable that Eames was dead, but Adams checked for vital signs just in case. There were none.