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Death Wears A Top Hat

By Stephanie Minns All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Horror


When a series of grisly murders hits London, psychic Alison teams up with Sue McKentee, a determined detective, to solve the case and catch the murderer.


“Hola, Senor Canul?” Andy called politely through the dark doorway.

He wasn’t sure if he was expected, whether Rodriguez’ letter of introduction had actually reached here yet. An elderly Mayan man in a faded Nike T-shirt and orange nylon shorts appeared from the gloom of the shack, blinking in the sunlight like a bewildered owl.

“Ah, young Andy, I presume.” The greeting in Spanish was welcoming and enthusiastic.

The old man’s grin revealed a mouth devoid of teeth, bar a rotted stump at the front. His weather-beaten face gave the impression it had been forged from the bark of trees and the local ochre-red soil itself. ‘Is this really the man Rodriguez enthused so much about,’ Andy wondered, as they shook hands? The little bronze, pot-bellied Mayan before him didn’t strike him somehow as what an accomplished shaman should look like. But then he’d learned from the months he’d spent travelling and studying so far in Mexico and Guatemala that many things here were not as they first seemed.

Following the squat old man, Andy gratefully stepped into the shade of the hut, setting his rucksack down where indicated. It looked much like many rural, indigenous homes he’d visited recently with its bare, beaten earth floor and simple furniture, the adobe walls covered in colourful local textiles. This home though was missing the usual nod to Catholicism, found in the form of a homemade shrine containing a cheap plaster-cast figurine of the Virgin Mary or a saint, surrounded by candle stumps.

Andy had spent many weeks at the Pagan forest shrines near Chichicastenango recently, where Rodriguez had guided him through ceremonies to the old Gods and the Goddesses of the moon, the sun, the maize and rain. To the local people, these were still the real ruling principles of the countryside and their way of life, not the patriarchal, invader-imposed Catholic Church, and he’d been privileged where some of his fellow field students had been denied, to witness these rites, even invited to take part. This was living history, still lived, and still performed with a quiet gratitude that ensured the rain would fall to grow the corn to feed the bellies. To Andy, a keen student of anthropology, the experience had been irreplaceable, a chance to absorb and learn things no dry, academic papers on the ancient Mayan culture could offer.

“I hear you English people like tea.”

Senor Canul studied the tall, tanned young man with the collar-length wavy blond hair and green eyes, standing awkwardly before him.

“We don’t get that here but I can offer you our mountain coffee, or a cold gallo.”

“A gallo would be good, thank you,” Andy replied. His Spanish had improved in leaps and bounds recently.

They took the cold beers to the shade of a jacaranda tree in the yard and Andy was acutely aware that his host was silently sizing him up, mentally measuring him. It made him feel transparent and vulnerable and he suddenly doubted the wisdom of coming here.

“Now,” Senor Canul remarked after a welcome swig from his bottle. “Rodriguez tells me you have already taken some steps on the knowledge path, that you’re not just another gringo who wants to be a wise-man after reading too many Yankee hippy books.”

Andy chuckled nervously, sensing a dig behind the words. The rheumy old eyes that studied him had a youthful sparkle in them though, playfully teasing.

“No, I’m really serious about this,” Andy replied.

“Well, English Andy, we’ll see. Now, tell me, what do you really want to learn? And why do English people like tea so much?”

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