And the novel looks like:
Discovering fairies at the bottom of the garden is supposed to be good luck. Except when the fairy has been crucified. Two pieces of wood shoved into the ground, one tiny form fastened on to them. Sometimes, thought Inspector Nick Paris, being a cop could be the worst job in the world. And sometimes it was bloody amazing.
‘Well?’ he asked. ‘What do you reckon?’
Williams the pathologist lay on the grass, examining the scene. He shuffled round and peered up at the detective.
‘I’m not sure what to make of it,’ he replied. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’
‘You think I have?’
‘Maybe, Boss,’ said a voice over Paris’s shoulder. ‘We do get to see some mighty weird stuff. Remember I told you about those talking fish?’
‘Bonetti,’ said Paris. ‘That was Finding Nemo.’
For the umpteenth time, Paris cursed the process of allocating sergeants, and wondered how the hell he’d been assigned this one. Life could be a right pain. Still, considering the grisly sight in front of him, it had to be better than the alternative.
‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘we’re not in Hollywood. This is Manchester, for God’s sake! The leafy suburbs, granted, but your archetypal northern industrial city. Things like this just don’t happen here. Mind you, things like this probably don’t happen anywhere. Help me out, Jack. Is it even real?’
Williams pushed his glasses back on his nose, then pointed at the grass.
‘We’ve got what appears to be blood,’ he said. ‘There’s also bruising around the wounds. Hence the answer is: yes and no.’ He clambered to his feet, brushing the soil from his trousers. ‘“Real” – yes. “It” – no. Most definitely a “she”.’
Paris crouched down to survey the scene once more. The two sticks were in the ground in an X shape, with one wrist and the opposite ankle attached to each. The petite head drooped forward, golden hair obscuring the face. Over the shoulders rose silver wings, glistening in the early morning sun. Below the head he could see a body covered by a pale blue dress. A body that was clearly female, with a sensational, albeit minute, figure.
‘Can’t argue with you,’ he said. ‘Living doll. Well, a dead one. But she can’t be a fairy, because they don’t exist. So what are we dealing with? Freak of nature? Genetic mutation?’
‘Maybe,’ said Bonetti, ‘she really is a fairy. Or a woman who got stuck in a washing machine.’
Paris looked up into his assistant’s permanently vacant face, sitting on top of the solid, rugby player’s torso. He had to admit, a good person to have around if they ever got into a fight. Plus a reasonable enough chauffeur. Apart from that, though, about as much use as the Gobi Desert white-water rafting team.
‘A washing machine?’
‘Happened to me, Boss. One of my shirts shrunk when we put it in extra hot.’
‘I see,’ said Paris, as patiently as he could manage. ‘And did it grow wings at the same time?’
‘No, Boss. Our machine’s too old for any of them fancy settings.’
Paris contemplated life with Bonetti as his sergeant. The alternative didn’t seem so bad after all.
‘Right,’ he said, turning back towards Williams. ‘Any suggestions which actually come from Planet Earth? Or anything else you want to tell me?’
‘I can’t give you a definitive cause of death until we get back to the lab,’ replied the pathologist. ‘I can tell you I don’t appreciate working in a circus.’
Paris raised his head. Shouting voices rumbled down from the house, hidden from view by a thick privet hedge.
‘There you go,’ he said. ‘I’ve always wondered why these people with great big gardens split them into different sections. Now I know. It’s to stop the media from seeing the bodies.’
He looked back at Williams, who frowned at him.
‘Bound to happen,’ said Paris. ‘You know how fast the papers pick up on the slightest hint of a story. Then someone reports finding a murdered fairy? Just be glad my guys are holding them back. Besides, we’ve kept it down to three camera crews and half a dozen reporters; I think we’ve done pretty well.’
Williams tutted. ‘You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?’ he asked.
‘I never enjoy finding the victims. Even when they’re fifteen centimetres tall. But I do like interesting cases.’
‘Indeed. You’ve certainly got one here.’
‘Boss,’ said Bonetti. ‘Do we tell the press anything?’
‘Do we hell!’ replied Paris. ‘Say it’s a hoax. I’m sure Jack can whip up whatever you need.’
‘Of course,’ said Williams. ‘Give you time to whip up the killer, I suppose.’
‘Yeah. Only that won’t even be the hard part. That’ll be dealing with the lawyers.’
‘What do you mean?’
Paris stared up at him. ‘How do you kill somebody who doesn’t exist?’
Andy Redsmith was born in Liverpool and grew up in Runcorn. For university he moved the enormous distance to Salford and has lived in Manchester ever since. He says the people there are great, but we don’t talk about football.
He worked for many years as a project manager in the computing industry, a job which really is every bit as exciting as it sounds. Eventually the call of writing became too hard to ignore and he went off to do that instead. Over the years in IT he worked with some very clever people and some complete weirdos, none of whom bear any resemblance to the characters in his books. Honest.
He has a wonderful wife, a great son, and a loft full of old Marvel comics. One day he’ll get round to selling them. That’s the comics, not the family.