On a bitter January night, private detective Sam Carlisle steps out of a nightclub and stumbles across a severely wounded man prostrate on the ground, the victim of an apparent knife attack. Despite Sam's efforts to save him, the stranger dies in his arms, uttering three small words before taking his final breath.
Help. Me. Find.
In the days that follow, the tragic encounter plays increasingly on Sam's mind. Who was the victim? What was he trying to find? With the police investigation drawing a total blank, Sam searches for the truth himself, determined to carry out the dead man's cryptic final request. However, following in the footsteps of a murdered man brings plenty of danger of its own.
Searching For Hope is the latest mystery featuring former undercover cop Sam Carlisle as he finds himself drawn into a perilous world of unscrupulous characters, dark secrets and a family torn apart by tragedy and betrayal.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE
Sam Carlisle peered down at his watch. 3am.
'Right!' he exclaimed, drinking the last of his whisky and getting to his feet. 'Time to go home.'
Sam gazed at his two friends across the table. Denny was sat bolt upright in his chair, head back and eyes closed, snoring gently. Next to him, Archie was slumped forward, chin resting in the palm of his hand, sleeping like a baby. The table in front of them was strewn with empty glasses and bottles.
Sam rolled his eyes. It had been Archie's idea to come out tonight, then Denny's to continue onto this back street club in Shard End, the notorious dock area of Newgate. Sam smiled thinly at the two men. The last of the big time drinkers.
He scanned the dimly-lit, near empty room. In the far corner, two elderly men berated each other vigorously in drunken argument. On the small dance floor, a hulking man in navy uniform clung to his leather-clad, female companion, the pair barely swaying to the soulful sixties number drifting mournfully from the speakers. Near the bar sat a young man hunched forward in his chair, empty glass clasped between his fingers, staring down morosely at the worn carpet.
Sam shook his head. It really was time to go home.
He checked his phone. No reception. With a sigh, he set off towards the entrance door, intent on calling a taxi from outside for himself and his two lightweight friends.
'Door's locked, mate! You'll have to leave out the side!'
Sam halted and stared over at the bar. The doorman, a stocky chap with heavily tattooed arms and a savage crew cut, was pointing to a fire exit across the room. Sam nodded, changed direction and headed for it.
'Oi! What about your pals?' the doorman shouted. 'They can't sleep here all night! This isn't a doss house!'
Sam resisted the temptation to point out that's exactly what it was. Instead, he gave the man a dismissive wave.
'I'll be back for them in a minute!' he retorted, heading for the fire exit, embracing the draught blowing in through the slightly open door. Sam pushed it outwards, stepped into the January night and immediately felt the cold air prick at his skin. He was in a narrow alleyway, its brick floor dusted with a light coat of frost. To his right, dustbins lined the wall leading to a dead end. The opposite direction led out onto the main road, silent and deserted at this unearthly hour. Sam grunted in satisfaction, pulled out his phone and began punching in numbers. He would ask the cab to pick them up out front.
Suddenly, something stirred nearby. The slightest noise. Sam ignored it, presuming an animal was scavenging in the bins. Shuffling his feet in an attempt to ward off the cold, he waited patiently for a reply down the phone.
Another noise. A barely audible groan. The weakest of moans coming from behind the nearest bin.
'Newgate Cabs. Where do you-'
Sam ignored the shrill voice in his ear, ended the call and stared at the bin. Curiosity roused, he walked towards the source of the noise, his every step measured and tentative. Rounding the bin, he saw something on the floor. His first impression was he was staring at a bundle of rags. Confused, he inched forward to take a closer look.
Sam found himself gazing down at a man lying flat on his back, his eyes wide open, staring up at the night sky.
His upper body covered in blood.
Sam dropped down beside the lifeless figure and located a faint pulse. The man was barely breathing. A deep chest wound was clearly visible, the lost blood dried hard on the man's coat. A knife? Sam thought it highly likely. He took off his jacket and placed it across the stranger's chest. Then he removed his sweater, folded it up and tucked it under the stricken man's head. The man groaned weakly, his lips barely moving, his eyes still fixated on the stars high above.
'Hang on,' whispered Sam. 'I'm getting help.'
He called the emergency services, studying the wounded figure as the phone rang out. Gaunt-looking. Mid-forties. Straw-blonde hair, lengthy and unwashed. Straggly beard. Blotchy, weather-beaten skin. Ill-fitting, grubby clothes. Worn-out shoes. Stale body odour. Sam chewed on his lip. This man was living rough. Homeless, surviving on the streets.
A crisp voice punctuated Sam's musings.
'Which service do you require?'
'Ambulance,' replied Sam hurriedly, 'and police. Quickly.'
Sam gave his location, tucked his phone away and turned his attention back to the injured man, noting the pallid complexion and glazed eyes. The man's lips had turned a soft shade of blue, his breathing was quiet and shallow. The life was draining out of him. In that moment, Sam was certain of one thing.
This man was not going to survive. He would be lucky to see the ambulance arrive.
Then, to Sam's surprise, the man roused. His eyes began to dart around with urgency. He tried to lift his head, causing a trickle of blood to roll down the corner of his mouth. Sam leaned over him.
'Easy,' he whispered gently, taking the man's hand in his own, trying to offer comfort. 'Don't move.'
The man wasn't listening. His lips began to move wordlessly. His eyes, suddenly clear and piercing, locked onto Sam with intent.
The solitary word came out as a croak. More blood flowed.
'You're going to be okay,' replied Sam, giving the man's hand a gentle squeeze, lying through gritted teeth. 'Just hang on-'
Suddenly, Sam felt himself being tugged forward. Amazingly, the man had found enough energy from within his weak body to grab Sam's shirt and pull him close. Sam didn't resist. The man desperately wanted to convey something.
Sam shook his head, mystified. The two men were so close their noses were almost touching. Sam could feel the man's breath on his face. He saw no fear in the stranger's eyes, just a burning desire to communicate before it was too late. Then the grip began to slacken on Sam's shirt. The man's eyes began to roll. A whisper escaped his lips as his eyelids closed.
A sudden commotion shattered their tragic solitude. Sam looked up. Denny and Archie had appeared, the pair being expertly manhandled out the fire exit by the doorman. The surly bouncer was giving them the benefit of his wisdom.
'Now, go home and don't come-'
All three of them stopped in their tracks when they saw Sam, kneeling on the frozen floor, cradling a dying man.
Sam looked back down.
The man had stopped breathing.