The Creative Peak

New inspired writing from an independent publisher

Deceit and Regret

Mel Cope

A Mystery Thriller

Until now Zoe’s life had been transient. She had only just broken free of the hostels and cheap rented rooms. It had been lonely and friendless. She knew that her fight for a good life hadn’t come without pain both for her and the people she had known. Her only hope was that they would forget her, because they would never forgive her. She was still only a young women in her twenties. Her career had suddenly blossomed. She could see a life ahead with money and friends. But would the past go away?

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Chapter One

Zoe stood silently looking around the room. The mindless destruction was everywhere. It was her private space, where her whole life was based. She felt violated. A lump grew in her throat. Her computer lay in pieces strewn on the floor. Her cameras had been ripped apart and their insides destroyed. The bank of hard disks under the desk had been kicked in. But her new flying camera was still in its box, unopened and untouched.

Her face twitched at the intrusion into her personal space, but tears were not her way. She had grown up hard because of life’s blows. In her teens there were five different foster homes. Then it was the hostels and loneliness. She had survived by fighting back at the drunks, druggies and perverts. There would be no tears, she couldn’t feel sorry for herself. That was in the past. She kicked at the mess on the floor. They would tell her that she shouldn’t have touched anything, but Zoe didn’t care.

Who did it flashed across her mind. She didn’t have any enemies. She was too much of a loner for that. Could it have been a rival? Some of them didn’t like her. Most of them were bullish men idiots, but it was what you expected if you were a twenty-five year old female at the heart of sports action photography. They all thought it belonged to the men, she knew it didn’t. It was her field. She was already beating them. Her new ways would kill off the straggling rivals.

Zoe’s face sneered at the mess. Was it kids? Or the local yobs? Unlikely in a small village. Anyway all the young lads fancied her. They would do anything for her. No, they would protect her, not trash the place. Her eyes looked in more detail at the broken equipment. It was wrecked, but the room hadn’t been trashed. The old half filled cup of coffee hadn’t been upset. On the window sill, the vase of her favourite flowers was untouched. Before the break-in she was beginning to realise she could have flowers and no one would destroy them.

Was anything missing? She tried to concentrate as the lump stuck in her throat. Her face turned grim to hold away the tears. She would not let them come. Instinctively, she put her hand in her pocket. It closed on a camera. It wasn’t one of her professional ones, just a small snappy little thing. She had two. This one in her pocket. The other was on the desk, when she had left. It was gone! Why steal that when there were others worth thousands?

Whoever it was that wanted to destroy her work had tried very hard. A small smile crept across her face. Every single shot she had ever taken since becoming a professional photographer was backed up in two different places away from her cottage. Only she knew where they were. The smile got bigger. I’ve won! But as she reached for her mobile to ring the police, she wondered whether she had won the fight or just the first round.

Chapter Two

‘Well, in my opinion, it was some nutter. They just like wrecking!’ said the uniformed police constable to Zoe.

She wasn’t in a mood to humour him. ‘It’ll be a long time before you’re called Sherlock,’ she said as she walked out of the room, and left him looking at the destruction. The kitchen was covered with fingerprint dust, but she made herself a cup of coffee and walked through to the old scullery.

‘This is where they broke in,’ said the police detective examining the door frame.

‘Brilliant deduction, Holmes! The crowbarred lock didn’t give me any clues at all!’

He had been examining the lock, but suddenly stood up and looked at her. He was a tall man, slim, with dark hair. A detective, with his cheap shopping centre clothes, was written all over him. Only mid thirties she guessed, but the boring clothes made him age ten years.

‘Why do you have to be such a pain in the arse?’

Her eyes opened wide and she stared at him, ‘You’re supposed to be sympathetic to me, I’m the victim. I could be in shock.’

‘Total rubbish and you know it. You haven’t hampered what we are doing...’

‘Very little...’ she interjected.

He frowned and in a trained manner, repeated. ‘You haven’t hampered what we are doing, but you are not the most cooperative victim we’ve ever had.’

‘Two hours you have been here. Fingerprint dust is everywhere, which will only confirm that I live in the cottage. Surely, even the dimmest novice policeman could work out that if you came armed with a crowbar you might come with a pair of gloves.’

He was studying her. She didn’t take any notice, men often did that. ‘If you got rid of that chip on your shoulder, you might actually be able to help.’ It took her by surprise, but before she could answer he added, ‘No, thanks. I don’t want a coffee, this is only my sixth hour nonstop. There again, I thought a victim might like me to turn up tonight, rather than half way through the day tomorrow.’

Zoe didn’t like being made to feel guilty. She would do that to other people. ‘Well...’ there was a long pause, ‘sorry.’ She went back into the kitchen and put the kettle on. She didn’t like the feeling of being put in her place.

It had nearly boiled when he came in, ‘I shouldn’t have said that. I’m obliged to say that if my conduct might be a cause for complaint, I can get you a form to fill in, if you want.’

‘Bloody hell, you’re serious!’

‘And I shouldn’t have mentioned the coffee,’ he said looking at the cup and the kettle.

‘I’m not sure I like some smart-arse copper getting the better of me.’

He smiled. Zoe had no option, but to laugh, ‘Here’s your coffee.’ She opened the fridge, and took out some cheese. From a cupboard she took some biscuits, ‘Here you are.’ She looked at him, but this time she smiled, ‘Does Sherlock in the other room want anything?’

He shook his head, ‘He’s only just on duty.’ The cheese was quickly cut and he took a swig of hot coffee. ‘How old do you think he is?’

Zoe was surprised by the question, ‘About fifty-five.’

‘Not far off.’

‘What’s that got to do with anything.’

‘He’s already got his pension, but he stays on, because we all think he does a good job.’ Zoe just made face. ‘I knew you were going to do that.’ She wasn’t pleased at being caught out again. ‘Not for this type of work, which is routine for uniformed constables.’

She was getting back some spirit, ‘So what is he good at?’

‘It might surprise you to know. Turning youths away from crime. He goes into youth clubs and is far more patient than I would ever be.’

‘Well, perhaps he likes being with young people.’

‘No, you’re going down the wrong line there. Year after year, people praise him as to how he tried to keep them on the straight and narrow in their youth. He might not have succeeded, but you’ll never hear a bad word about him.’

‘OK, sermon over,’ but she knew she could never talk to that police constable the same again. The two people that had helped in her youth were from different backgrounds, but they had done the same. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘The simple question is ‘why?’ but that holds a whole host of others.’ Zoe looked at him. For the first time she could see he was thinking. ‘Why come to a small insignificant cottage in Limedale, equipped with house breaking tools?’ Zoe went to reply, but he shook his head, and then he continued, ‘And then not steal thousands of pounds of equipment, that would get good money, anywhere you wanted to sell it.’


‘No, that won’t do. I know what you’re thinking, but they only stole a little camera. Why steal that and nothing else? I want some answers!’

‘Well I don’t know...’

He was now quite fervent in his words. ‘You’ve got two choices.’

‘What are you on about?’

‘Either answer a whole load of questions...’

‘Such as?’

‘How a rough cropped hair lass in her mid twenties has thousands of pounds of equipment.’

‘It’s my job...’

He smiled, ‘But you didn’t let me finish.’ Zoe didn’t react. ‘You have all this equipment, but live in a rented cottage in a quarry village, with an old car outside. It doesn’t quite add up.’

Zoe snapped, ‘You said there was an alternative.’

He looked singularly at her, ‘Answer the normal questions and I do my report. Standard break-in, someone must have known she was a camera enthusiast.’ Her face was a blank, so he said, ‘Your choice?’

Zoe did not take her eyes from his face as she said, ‘Standard report.’