- Shereen Vedam
Storytelling Time: Death Shifts Gears – Chapter 1 Part II
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
Book: Death Shifts Gears
“The cars we drive say a lot about us.” -Alexandra Paul
Besides cars, the plants we grow can also tell a lot about us, our interests, our tastes, and our plans for the world we live in. For instance, I love growing garlic because I find it is much sweeter than the versions I purchase in a grocery store. In Death Shifts Gears, not only will we learn a lot about the murder victim by the car she drove, but by the plants she chose to grow, and why she grew them. Pay special attention to the description of the garden in this excerpt, It might be hiding more than a pink shoe.
First, in the excerpt below, we’ll meet a car that can drive itself and is trying to communicate with Abbie about the murder victim. What do you think it wants to say? Could it be about the garden?
Death Shifts Gears
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 1, Part II
Bran nodded but added, “It might be more up your Grimm alleyway than a doctor’s office.”
“Why?” Abbie asked.
Once at the school, her brother pulled up to the car park and turned off the ignition. “The memory lapses only occur when he gets into his sister’s new Toyota Supra. He bought it for her as a birthday present.”
She hadn’t realized Yousef Kanaan could afford such extravagance. His used car dealership and repair shop must be doing well. The front playground was still empty. Abbie absently murmured, “Pricey gift.”
“A local Healthy Habits group gave him a sweet deal for it after a contest they ran fell apart due to internal issues. Layla, his sister, was a member of that club and had entered the contest hoping to win the Supra, the grand prize. When they put the car up for sale instead, Yousef jumped on it despite it being nitro yellow. That’s Layla’s favorite color.”
“Sweet of him.” Abbie waved as her kids rushed out.
Jimi ran toward them, his chestnut-colored arms raised in enthusiasm. Nica followed at a slower pace, dragging her feet. Her frown deepened when she spotted the car seats.
At eight, going on twenty, she believed she no longer needed a car seat. Once Abbie informed her that the law required her to have one until she was over one hundred and thirty-five centimeters, she’d been measuring herself every week to see if she’d passed that goal post. Abbie exited the vehicle to assist them but Nica had herself and her brother strapped in before Abbie could reach either.
She returned to her seat with a resigned sigh, sending Bran a wry side-glance.
“You two have a good day at school?” her brother asked as he put his car into gear and sped away. Nearby parents turned heads and sent him disapproving frowns.
“Yes!” Jimi said. “Mrs. Bailey says I can now count to twenty without her help.”
The Doctor Who theme song suddenly played on Abbie’s mobile. She gave her brother a worried side glance.
Abbie had her phone play that tune whenever her mother texted. Margaret Grimshaw only did that when trouble brewed. Her phone showed a short text message. She read it aloud for everyone’s benefit. “Abbie, why don’t you come home for a visit? We haven’t talked in ages.”
“That can’t be good,” her brother muttered.
Her mother’s cryptic messages usually veered Abbie away from danger. They drove in worried silence, passing under a street sign stretched across two lampposts highlighting a Health & Wellness Fair in town this weekend. Abbie texted her mother back saying all was well and promised to stop by soon. Then she thumbed a note into her phone to remind herself to do so and maybe stop by the fair with the kids. There might be something fun for them to do there.
A roar from their rear alerted them before a yellow vehicle streaked past.
“Abbie!” Nica shouted. “That car didn’t have a driver.”
“How is that possible?” Robert asked.
“Maybe it’s a driverless car,” Abbie suggested, watching the vehicle’s yellow tail speed away, though following her mother’s warning, this didn’t bode well.
“We’d better find out where it’s rushing off to then.” Abbie gripped the sides of her seat. “Everyone, hang on. And Bran, could you turn down the music?”
“What music?” he asked, and roared down the road.
“Yes, what music?” Robert asked from the back.
“It’s too loud,” Jimi shouted, covering his ears.
“What are you two talking about?” Nica asked. “There’s no music.”
The car radio was turned off. Abbie double-checked. Yes, the radio was off. Yet, the blaring in her ears was unmistakable. If only she and Jimi could hear it, that meant this was Grimm-related.
Yet again, her mother’s instinct was spot on. Not surprising, since she, too, was a Grimm, though she’d voluntarily given up that occupation once Abbie was born to safeguard her child from supernatural danger.
“Don’t lose sight of that car,” she told her brother and then hung on as he swerved around a corner.
“Looks like we’re headed to Yousef’s place,” Bran said.
She hoped so since the yellow Supra was now out of sight. At least, the music had also appreciably lessened.
Before long, her brother pulled into a wide-open gated pathway. “He would never leave those gates open like that,” Bran said. “His past has made him too security conscious.”
They drove toward a circular drive. Ahead of them, the nitro yellow Supra was parked askew before a three-story house.
“Yousef rents this place from the Earl of Ashford,” Bran said.
“Stay here,” Abbie said to the children and then glanced at Robert.
He nodded understanding of that unspoken request to keep an eye on the little ones.
After Bran put the car in park, Abbie stepped outside with him, cautiously approaching the Supra, one on either side. The vehicle remained silent, without anyone inside, and not a musical note to be heard. The car wasn’t running, the windows were shut tight and both doors were locked. It was as if this was no more than a badly parked car.
She laid a palm over the long front bonnet. Warm to the touch. Ah-ha! It had been this car that passed them.
“I’ll see if Layla’s in.” Bran sprinted to the front door.
Abbie was about to follow when a horn blared. A glance at Bran, who knocked on the door undisturbed suggested only she had heard that musical call. She raised a questioning brow, glancing past the Supra to Bran’s Jaguar. Jimi waved and then pointed toward a fenced area to his right.
Abbie considered her next move and then deliberately took a step away from that fence and toward the front door. The horn let loose an indignant blast. With a triumphant grin, Abbie changed direction and headed toward the fenced yard. The Supra remained quiet the entire time.
The white-painted shoulder-high wooden fence protected a large veg patch sectioned off into four quadrants, each one filled with lush rows of various crops. No one seemed to be about. Shrugging, she turned back to the cars and the horn blared three sharp notes.
Bran came around the house. “No one’s home.”
“I want to check behind the fence.” Abbie rubbed her ringing ears before leading him there. She must have a chat about the Supra’s mode of communication.
Bran followed her through the gate and down the path between two quadrants of carrots and zucchini.
“What are we looking for?” he asked.
Abbie stopped by a section of tall green plants. The bushes had beans growing from them. Odd. These grew taller than she’d expect of bean plants. They came up to her chin. What held her attention most, though, was a pink low-heeled shoe in their midst. She caught Bran’s sleeve and pointed. Walking between two rows, she inched closer and spotted a leg attached to the shoe.
“Bran, call 999.”
Her brother nodded and pulled out his phone.
Abbie hurried closer and knelt to check the woman’s pulse and then cringed away. The corpse’s face and torso were flattened. There was no other way to describe it. Bile rose and she covered her mouth to suppress her gag. No need to check for a pulse. Bran was right. No one was home. She waved her brother back. “Are the police coming?”
“Yes,” he replied, putting away his phone. “After I put in my report, DCI Radford came on the line and said you’re to stay away from the body.”
The order rolled over her as unnecessary, for another nauseous wave rose at the thought of going anywhere near that flattened body again.
She passed the fence, approached the Jaguar, and tapped on the window. Nica rolled down hers. The girl looked dismayed as if she was already aware of what Abbie had discovered.
“Jimi told us,” Robert said, confirming Abbie’s suspicion.
“How much?” she asked. They’d yet to understand the extent of Jimi’s magical talents.
“That Yousef’s sister has departed this world and not in a natural manner,” Robert said.
Abbie nodded. “Jimi, did the Supra tell you that?”
The boy nodded, tears sliding down. “She doesn’t know how to talk to anyone else yet.”
Robert slung a comforting arm around the boy.
“She’s gone,” Nica said in an angry voice, “like Amma.”
Abbie reached in and took Nica’s hand but the young girl pulled away, crossing her arms.
The sound of two-tone sirens suggested Chipstead’s first responders were on their way. Abbie shrugged off the hurt at Nica’s withdrawal and strolled over to the Supra. This might be her last chance to check on this vehicle. She knocked on the window.
After a moment’s hesitation, the window lowered. Her lips quirked in a smile of pleasure at that small success and she stooped to look in. Nothing extraordinary within the car. No magical flames. No unnatural auras. Or cranky creatures.
“Layla is dead,” she said to the empty vehicle. “Do you know what happened to her?”
The car sounded a long, mournful note from its horn.
“Is that a Yes?” Abbie asked.
The note repeated. No, then. If it told the truth. Whatever was the case, its sorrowful answers suggested this car was unhappy about Layla’s untimely death. Interesting, and unfortunate. She had hoped the Supra might have witnessed and/or could tell them what had squashed its owner.
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