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Excerpt Friday: The Dead Letter by Finley Martin

dead letter

It is 2001 and the police constable’s girlfriend is murdered in a fit of jealous rage. When the constable realizes what he has done, he manages an elaborate cover-up. Only one person knows the truth. Flash forward to 2012. Anne Brown is still running her late uncle, Bill Darby’s, detective agency after spending four or five years as his assistant. One day, the postman delivers an eleven year-old letter. The letter is addressed to her uncle from a woman named Carolyn Jollimore. She says she has evidence about a murder and begs for help from Darby. But Bill Darby is dead. And when Anne looks up the letter’s author, she finds that Jollimare too is now dead. Troubled with the evidence at hand, Anne must decide if she should investigate this eleven-year old murder.



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Excerpt from The Dead Letter

“All right, I’m having an affair. So what? You don’t own me.”

Simone Villier hooked her thumbs under her waistband and rotated her hips slowly back and forth as she adjusted her skirt. She evoked an uncommon sensuality, and she was aware of its effects — carnal glances from men, and the confused mix of disapproval and guilty envy from women.

Constable Jamie MacFarlane’s fingers gripped the web belt that held his service pistol, handcuffs, night light, and radio, and listened in disbelief. Like many other men around Charlottetown, Jamie MacFarlane had been drawn to her, but his advances had had greater success, and they had engaged in a fiery and tumultuous romance for eight months.

Now it was over. And tonight her alluring moves, which once had thrilled him, felt hollow, taunting, and cruel.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“I’m not going to tell you who it is. It’s none of your business.”

Simone looked away. His jealousy pleased her. Then, to fill the silence, she straightened a few items on her office desk and hoped that Jamie would stomp off into the night and be done with it, but he didn’t. He remained. He said nothing. The silence was uncomfortable. She ignored him and stared out the second-floor window of her office into the darkness of the harbour and focused on the beads of light that framed the skyline of the city of Charlottetown.

Then Jamie’s hand slammed the top of the desk, and his voice snapped like a bullet.

“I want to know! Who is it?”

“Screw you!” she said

He grabbed her shoulders and shook her. Her eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed with anger, and she pulled away and circled behind her desk. Jamie didn’t follow.

“Then why! Tell me that,” he demanded.

“What difference does it make?” she asked, her tone quieter now. Tired, but not conciliatory. “We’re over. Finished. It was a laugh for a while. A few great times even. Now it’s done.”

“It’s not over … not ’til I say it is,” he said.

“You sound like a spoiled kid. Grow up.” Simone grabbed her jacket and strode toward the door, but Jamie blocked her way.

“You’re not leaving until I get an answer. Why?”

“You want to know why? Okay. Here the story. You were cute, but not cute enough. Is that reason enough? You were charming, but it wore so thin I could see right through you. Is that enough? No? How ’bout you work all the time! You’re not fun anymore … and haven’t been for a long time. Is that enough? Plenty enough for me, anyway.”

“You’re just a tramp!”

“And what are you? You think that cop uniform makes you some big shot? You’re not. You’re nobody! A big mouth with pocket change.”

“Slut!” he shouted

“Loser!” she said. “Oh … and here’s another reason! I’m pregnant … and before that idea starts rollin’ around your empty head, it’s not yours.”

The muscles in MacFarlane’s jaw flexed.

“How long?”

“Three months or so.”

“You’ve been bangin’ him … and me … for the last three months. Who is he?”

Simone laughed.

“Oh, it’s been a lot longer than that. And you don’t need to know. It’s none of your business.”

“Who is he?” he shouted. “Do I know him?” He grabbed Simone and shook her hard until her head snapped back and forth like a broken toy and her face blanched. “Who is he? Who is he?”

She struggled in his grip like a frightened dog, squirmed and writhed. Her strength and tenacity surprised him. His hands slipped as the point of her shoe caught him sharply on the shin. Simone broke away. Her right hand swiped painfully across his eye. As she took a step back, his one hand rose to his eye, and his other dropped onto the top of the desk. It fell on a heavy metal three-hole punch. With an emerging hatred, he swung the club-like machine above his head and struck, down and diagonally, across her skull. The bone sounded with a sharp crack, and Simone fell to the floor.

She remained motionless but for her eyes, which were closing slowly, like those of a cat drifting into sleep.

MacFarlane felt for a pulse. There was none. He walked to the door and flicked off the light. He started to leave, but the sudden darkness swept over him like a wave. It smothered his panic and dampened his anger. It also woke him to the realization that Simone was dead, that he had killed her, and that the murder weapon was still frozen in his hand.

He lingered a few more minutes in the dark until his heart slowed and his thinking cleared, and the only sound that filled his ears was the clack clack clack of a cheap wall clock beating away at the minutes.

By the time he flicked the light switch back on, he knew what he had to do. He wiped his fingerprints from the doorknobs and switches and desk. He cleaned his prints from the three-hole punch and dropped it near her body. Simone’s purse lay on the desk. He dumped the contents and took her wallet and cellphone. He yanked a gold necklace from her neck and slipped a sapphire ring from her finger. He stuffed all of it into a pocket of his uniform, crept into the stillness of the hallway, and descended the fire stairs to a side street exit.

Someone will have to pay for Simone’s killing, he thought.

About The Author


Finley’s  Website / Facebook / LinkedIn / Goodreads

Finley Martin was born in Binghamton, New York and grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  He received a B.A. degree in English at the University of Scranton, and during the 1960’s he served as an officer with the United States Marine Corps at posts in America, the Caribbean, and Asia. After he returned to civilian life, he worked as a free-lance writer, p.r. consultant, and photographer and became public relations director at International Correspondence Schools. In the 70’s he received an M.A. from the University of Ottawa and a B.Ed. from the University of Prince Edward Island.  For many years he taught English literature at high school and writing courses at university.  He has also worked as a truck driver, labourer, carpenter, boat builder, and deckhand aboard commercial fishing vessels and passenger ferries. ​ During his writing career he published numerous magazine and newspaper articles, poetry, and short stories in Canada and the U.S.  He produced a mini-series for CBC Radio and has given numerous poetry readings. He authored three books: New Maritime Writing, Square Deal Pub., Charlottetown, PE; A View from the Bridge, Montague, PE; and The Reluctant Detective, The Acorn Press, Charlottetown, PE.


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