Danny Lancaster - Last Orders

"Feels edgy and modern"

"A great novella"

Big Eddie Archer is throwing a celebrity party for the reopening of The Bellerophon public house. When singer Paul Toopen, star of TV reality show Dreamboat, goes missing there is only one man the pub’s guv’nor can call on.

But Danny Lancaster is off his game after overdoing Eddie’s free hospitality at last night’s dress rehearsal. Fans besiege the pub and the media are everywhere. This could be a public relations disaster but Eddie reckons if Danny can crack the case before closing time it will make the new Bellerophon famous.

Danny’s head is pounding but Eddie’s star guests might just be trapped in a pub with a killer. And the clock is ticking down to last orders.

#LastOrders #TheBigBellBash

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Emily Shepherd had taken off her suit jacket but the effort was still making her sweat. All the planning, all the preparation, and some stupid idiot had to go and do this.

She vaguely remembered someone famous saying something about it being the unexpected that caught you out. Emily sipped coffee from the reusable mug beside her on the pavement, picked up the brush, started scrubbing again. Then she stopped, sat back, suddenly angry.


She wasn’t a violent person, had seen what that did to people. But now she was angry. Not missed-train angry. Bloody livid angry. Why would someone do this after others had worked so hard? If she ever met the moron who had done this she’d punch them in the face with no regrets.

Emily stood up and stretched. Even after all her recent exercising the squatting position and arm action had made her stiff and achy. At least it looked like her clothes had escaped getting stained. There hadn’t been time to change.

Five letters.

She’d cleared away four, the big, red, fluorescent shapes still faintly visible on the brickwork.

On letter to go. And two exclamation marks.

When she’d finished she might need to go over them again. Emily hissed out her anger, squatted, resumed scrubbing.

‘You done yet?’

She looked to her right. A beefy figure was half hanging out of the front door, looking down at her.

‘Not yet.’

‘Well get a move on, Em. We’ve got work to do.’

Emily prided herself on her self-control. She took the deepest breath she could manage while scrunched on the pavement, tried to clear her mind, glide to her tranquil place. She exhaled, looked up. That big, dreadful man was still looking down at her, flapping an urgent arm.

‘You really should call the police about this,’ said Emily.

‘Nah,’ said Big Eddie Archer. ‘Just another twat who thinks they’re an artist.’

‘You don’t know that.’

‘Believe me, girl, I do. Besides, you’d have to get yourself murdered before the Old Bill turn up.’

He looked along the wall.

‘Anyway, loads to do. Get a wiggle on girl.’

And he was gone.

Reenergised by rage, Emily attacked the last letter. When it was gone she stood up, stepped back. The graffiti might escape the casual eye but the ghosts of the letters were still very faintly visible.

Maybe it really was done by some wannabe artist roaming the streets with a spray can. Maybe it was just a tag or part of some Twitter-inspired campaign. Maybe Eddie was right and it was nothing, didn’t mean anything.

After all, half the walls in Brighton were plastered in paint that many locals regarded as works of art. So maybe Eddie really was right. But Emily’s instincts told her he wasn’t. And the thought frightened her.

She had a full day ahead. And a long night. There wasn’t time to scrub them again and the drips on the pavement would have to stay. Maybe she’d run a hosepipe over the wall later.

Emily took another step back, looked at the brickwork and their faded phantom letters.


Maybe Eddie was right. Emily hoped so.


Danny Lancaster giggled. It sounded strange, not a noise he made often. It made him giggle again. He ran an index finger along the rope barrier, following the corded strands.

They looped between gold stanchions set in two immaculate rows, like trains lines, towards the bright rectangle of the front door ahead of him.

The building looked magnificent. New weathered bricks in perfect rows marching up the frontage like parading soldiers. The pub’s name – THE BELLEROPHON – stood out in bright gold letters above the ground floor windows. The paintwork was immaculate, the whole place shiny, straight out of the box.

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I’ve spent most of my working life as a journalist and was pleased and surprised to win an award for my travel writing. Before that I tried all sorts of jobs including furniture removals, photography, teaching and running a magazine group.

Travel writing is not all cocktails under the palm trees but it’s a fantastic job that has taken me to more than 40 countries, from the pure white wastes of Arctic Finland to the ancient deserts of Namibia.

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