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HELL’S

HALF

ACRE

A gripping murder mystery full of twists

JACKIE ELLIOTT

Coffin Cove Mysteries Book 2

Joffe Books, London

www.joffebooks.com

First published in Great Britain in 2021

© Jackie Elliott

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The spelling used is British English except where fidelity to the author’s rendering of accent or dialect supersedes this. The right of Jackie Elliott to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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Cover art by Nick Castle

ISBN: 978-1-78931-793-0

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Epilogue

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In memory of Terry South and the stories of the real Hell’s Half Acre.

Chapter One

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“Shh, shut up, he’ll hear you.”

The oldest boy crouched down behind a tree and gestured at the other two to do the same.

They hunkered down as low as they could go and squinted into the sunlight reflecting off the retreating morning tide.

All three boys were breathing hard, anticipating the morning’s hunt. They could see their breath billowing white in the chill of the spring morning as they waited.

The trio had gathered early as planned, slipping out of their respective homes and meeting on the boardwalk.

They had walked together, not speaking much and keeping their heads down. Nobody took any notice of them. It was quiet at the government dock and the marina. The herring boats had left hours before, and now only early morning dog walkers and the occasional wharf rat — ex-fishermen or oddballs who lived on their boats against all the Coffin Cove Marina rules — hung around, waiting for the coffee shop to open.

If anyone had paid them any attention, they might have wondered where the three boys were going. Their demeanour suggested a purpose. Their furtive glances indicated that purpose might not be entirely innocent.

The comrades passed by the boat ramp and took the stone steps down onto the pebbled beach below the cliff. The tide was still out, so they opted to jog along the hard sand until they reached the far end of the bay. A rocky outcrop where the cliff had crumbled marked the edge of the public beach. Beyond that point was a smaller secluded bay, surrounded by clusters of pine trees. Narrow trails disappeared into the woods, but the bay was only accessible from the beach when the tide was out. At the nearest end, driftwood piled up, flung by the winter storms and spring tides to the edge of the forest.

The boys had scrambled over the grey hunks of timber to find a lookout point.

They could see the length of the beach, and their prey had emerged from the cover of the trees, causing the youngest boy to squeal with excitement, earning him a glare and a reprimand from the oldest.

The three observed their prey in silence.

Silence. They knew all about hunting. The oldest boy had been on a hunt. He knew all about tracking an animal. He’d learned how to be quiet, to remain downwind and out of sight. He’d passed on this information with authority to the other two, who had listened in admiration. The oldest boy had automatically assumed the leader’s role. He had planned the hunt and identified their prey. For several days, they had watched and learned.

Their prey was amusing himself on the beach, squatting down in rock pools, poking at the seaweed with a stick.

“Where is it? Give it here.”

The smallest boy dug into his shorts pocket and pulled out a whistle.

The leader grabbed it. “Ready?”

The other two nodded, holding their breath.

He blew the whistle, shrill and piercing, three long blasts, and then collapsed, stifling giggles.

“Watch him, watch him, what’s he doing?”

The prey looked up. He seemed to be waiting. He didn’t move, still knelt down in the tidal pool.

“Blow it again!”

The leader did as urged, and the three were rewarded as the prey took off running, almost straight towards them.

“Heads down!”

The three hit the ground and waited until the prey’s running feet had passed by.

“Quick, quick, follow him!”

The three, experienced in the art of hunting small animals and birds with pellet guns and slingshots, moved as silently as they could, pursuing their largest target ever into the dense trees that bordered the beach.

This was the furthest they had ever been into this part of the forest. All three had been warned.

“Stay off Whilley’s land. He’ll shoot first and ask questions later.”

But the boys were even more fascinated by the overgrown property that jutted out on the rocky end of Coffin Cove beach and stretched right up to the gravel pit. And they had made it their business to casually bully the mysterious Whilley boy

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