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The Jansson Tapes

The Jansson Tapes

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The Jansson Tapes

209 pages
2 hours
May 11, 2020


When a familiar leggy blonde slides onto the back seat of his cab with the offer of work, taxi-driver and amateur sleuth Terry Bell isn’t keen. However, compared to the tedium of driving a cab all day, the lure of another mystery is too strong to resist, and Terry agrees to help.

Tracking down a missing writer and his tape recorder sounds simple enough, but following the clues to a remote village, the case takes a dangerous turn when the man turns up dead. After the police take over, Terry and his sidekick Carol return home to find their flat ransacked—and that’s not the only surprise. Caught between a suspicious detective inspector and the machinations of a mysterious woman, can the wily investigator unravel the mystery before the killer strikes again?

In this murder/mystery series set on England's northeast coast, The Jansson Tapes is book #3 in the Terry Bell Mystery series.

May 11, 2020

About the author

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. All Colin's books are available as eBooks and most are also out in paperback, too. His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

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The Jansson Tapes - Colin Garrow

The Jansson Tapes

By Colin Garrow

Distributed by Smashwords

Copyright © 2020 Colin Garrow

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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


Author’s Note

Other Books by this Author


About the Author

Chapter 1

It was a slate sky, sea-and-mist sort of day—the sort of day that’s going nowhere, when all a man can do is count the minutes until knocking-off time.

Given the excitement of recent weeks, I had no reason to feel bored, but already the hum-drum reality of not being in fear for my life had taken the shine off things. With a piece in the local paper along the lines of local-boy-does-good, I’d expected to see a few enquiries flooding, or at least trickling, to my newly acquired website, but there was nothing. Not even Ralph’s encouraging texts were going to make me feel better. With summer fast approaching, I wasn’t looking forward to long days sitting in a hot car, sweaty tourists yapping in my ears and old wifies whinging about the price of a ride home.

To be fair, I didn’t exactly relish the thought of investigating murders on a daily basis, and the threats to me and Carol had proved more than a little scary, but I had to admit, it was a damn sight more exciting than sitting in a car all day.

Even so, my response to Caravan Queen Sheila Carver’s requests to see me tended to run along the lines of sorry, too busy, not feeling good, a bit over-tired—in fact any excuse that might keep her at bay for a few weeks or, ideally, several years.

As it turned out, it wasn’t Sheila who dragged me back into the sleuthing game that Friday afternoon, but another woman with rather more to offer.

Movement on the taxi rank had been slow all day and by two o’clock I’d only had a dozen pick-ups, so when a familiar leggy blonde slid into the back seat, I wasn’t about to complain.

‘Mr Bell,’ she purred, long fingers slinking over my shoulders. ‘I thought you might like to take me home.’

Elise Andersson had never flounced along a catwalk or strutted her particular stuff for the paparazzi, but as Fat Barry would say, she had the teeth, the tits and the legs to do the job very nicely, if the need arose.

‘Still living at the same place?’ I said, trying to drag my gaze from her plunging neckline.

‘Still there,’ she said. ‘In fact, why don’t you come in for something to eat? Sven’s making sausages.’

I remembered all too vividly her husband’s penchant for pumping minced lamb into phallic forms. ‘No, I’m alright. Had a burger earlier.’

She laughed and sat back. ‘Coffee and a chat, then?’

‘We’ll see,’ I said. Keying the mic, I called the job in. Then pulling out into traffic, thought about the last time I’d visited the house, when the truth of my pal Frank’s death had emerged, along with a lot of stuff involving sex-slaves, and other sordid goings-on. Not to mention who may or may not have been responsible for killing Big Ronnie.

Elise chatted away about nothing much as I headed out of town and onto the country road that led to the Andersson residence.

‘How is your girlfriend, Mr Bell?’

‘Carol? Oh, she’s fine, thanks.’ I glanced at her in the rear-view, noting the sly smile. ‘Aye, just fine.’ I wound the window down and let the cool air waft over my face, telling myself I’d no reason to feel guilty.

She shut up for the next ten minutes until I turned onto the narrow lane up to the house.

Crunching over the gravelled driveway, I slowed to a stop and peered up at the two-storey structure. On my last visit, the Anderssons were in the throes of a revamp and from the looks of it, they’d had new windows put in and done a bit of landscaping on the wide front garden.

Elise handed me a fiver but didn’t make a move to get out of the car, so I jumped out and sidled round to open the door.

‘Always the gentleman, Mr Bell,’ she murmured, giving me that sly smile again.

I followed her into the house and down the passage towards the kitchen. The décor had changed for the better and the bare staircase from before now had a plush-looking carpet on it that must have cost an arm and a leg per square foot. Several pieces of artwork ranged along the left-hand wall, two or three by local artists and a couple of Jack Vettriano’s. I wondered if they were originals—knowing the couple’s fondness for dipping their Swedish fingers in several financially-productive pies, it wouldn’t surprise me.

‘Ah, Terry,’ said the man of the house, as we walked into the restaurant-sized kitchen. I’d forgotten the rich and disturbingly sensuous quality of his voice—it gave me a feeling of unease and I felt my stomach muscles contract. Forcing myself to concentrate, I took in my surroundings. As with the rest of the house, it had been updated—new pale green tiling encircled the Aga that stood against one wall next to a modern oven, and in the centre of the room, the massive traditional kitchen table had given way to an equally massive island with a beautiful walnut worktop. With a rack of pots and pans hanging overhead that the likes of Heston Blumenthal wouldn't cock a snook at, I couldn’t help but admire the choices they’d made.

‘Sven.’ I nodded and glanced around, looking for signs of sausage-making activity. Three plastic trays encased in polythene bore the meaty fruits of his labours.

‘For the freezer,’ said the Swede, seeing my interest. ‘I decided on Sheep’s Head Broth for tonight.’ He raised an eyebrow. ‘You’re staying for dinner?’

‘Sorry,’ I muttered. ‘Prior engagement.’ I couldn’t help wondering why the pair of them were so keen for me to hang around.

‘Ah, yes. The lovely Carol.’ He spoke her name as if she were a rare Northumbrian delicacy that he’d be more than happy to sink his teeth into. ‘Coffee, then?’

I nodded and pulled out one of the bar stools. ‘I get the feeling there’s something you want,’ I said, watching him spoon an Ethiopian brand into the coffee machine.

Ignoring my question, he took three mugs from the cupboard overhead and placed them neatly in a line on the worktop.

‘I see you have a website now,’ he said.


Elise leaned towards me. ‘Not getting much traffic.’ She grinned at her husband, giving the impression they’d spent time discussing me, and reinforcing my theory that the cab ride had been no random pick-up.

I coughed. ‘Only been up a few weeks.’

‘And what of Mrs Carver?’ said Sven.

I recalled that he and Sheila shared the services of my bald-headed pal Ralph, but to what degree they might be in each other’s pockets, I had no clue.

‘You haven’t heard from her?’ said Elise.

I was beginning to feel put upon. ‘I believe she wants to see me.’

Sven grinned. ‘Ah. Perhaps the life of the amateur sleuth is not so appealing to you now?’

‘Well…’ I didn’t want a discussion on the whys and wherefores of Sheila Carver and her cronies. At least, not until I knew what was in it for the Anderssons.

Sven crossed to a cupboard and produced a cake tin. He prised off the lid and pushed the tin across to me.

‘Singing hinnies?’ I said, extracting one of the gridle scones. ‘Ye should be careful, bonny lad, ye’ll end up taalkin like me.’

Sven laughed good-humouredly. ‘Simply my attempt to fit in with your Geordie culture. Get yer choppers roond that, man.’

Taking a bite, I savoured the bread-like texture and felt the rumbling in my guts seeping away.

‘Take some home for Carol,’ he said, giving me a wide, white-toothed smile.

Despite my misgivings, and his appalling faux-Geordie accent, perhaps he wasn’t such a bad bloke after all. Or he could simply be buttering me up, in readiness for coaxing me into doing something I didn’t want to do.

Elise went to pour the coffee, then passed me the butter dish and a knife. Sven sat down, watching me. Reaching over, he picked up a scone and toyed with it, turning it over and over in his hands.

‘So ye do want something?’

He dropped his gaze, stared at the table. ‘We’ve had a house guest for the last few weeks—an old friend from Sweden.’

I slathered butter onto what was left of my scone and pushed it into my mouth, then helped myself to another one. ‘And?’

He paused for a moment, seemed to be considering what to say. ‘He’s working on a book and wanted a little peace and quiet.’

‘It’s pretty quiet here,’ I said.

‘True, nevertheless he wanted somewhere to stay where he might work undisturbed.’

‘Before ye ask, he’s not moving in with me an’ Carol.’

He laughed. ‘No, no, it’s not that. We found a place for him with a friend of ours.’

I stopped chewing. ‘A friend of ours?’

He nodded. Smiled.

Finally, I got it. ‘Sheila.’

‘She arranged for one of her caravans to be made available to him. We dropped him off there last weekend.’

The rumbling in my stomach started up again. ‘Don’t tell me…’

‘He has disappeared.’

‘As in…into thin air?’

Elise passed a mug of coffee to me. ‘Our friend is not the type of man to wander off.’

Sven said, ‘What you might call an introvert. Socialising is against his nature.’

‘What makes you think he hasn’t gone off sight-seeing?’

‘As I say,’ said Sven, ‘unlike Elise and I, our friend is not what you’d call gregarious. He does not seek out people to spend time with, certainly not strangers.’

‘When did you last see him?’

He glanced at his wife. ‘Sunday. We dropped him off at the caravan that morning and called in to see him the next day, but he wasn’t there, and we haven’t seen or heard from him since.’

‘What does Sheila say about it?’

‘As far as we know, none of her staff have seen him.’

I thought about this while drinking my coffee. Disappearing Swedes wasn’t exactly on a par to investigating a murder. More along the lines of a run-of-the-mill Jim Rockford case. Which reminded me.

‘You’d like me to investigate?’

Sven glanced at his wife. ‘If it’s not too much of an imposition?’

Considering that’s why they’d got me here in the first place, I could have argued that a simple phone call would have sufficed. Instead, I said, ‘And who’s paying for my services?’

‘We’ll pay,’ said Elise, ‘though of course, if you find that something…bad…has happened to him…’ She glanced at Sven. ‘Then I suppose it will become a police matter…’

Another run-in with Inspector Charis Brown was the last thing I needed, but on the face of it, I couldn’t see a reason to turn down their offer. ‘Alright, it’s one hundred and fifty a day plus expenses.’

I waited for him to flinch. He didn’t. ‘Send me an invoice for a week.’

‘Great,’ I said, finishing my drink. ‘Do you have a few details of your friend—name, mobile numbers, photo, etc?’

Sven tore a piece of notepaper from a pad on the worktop, scribbled down a name and a couple of numbers and passed it across to me. ‘I’ve given you my mobile number, and his, though I warn you—he despises technology and refuses to even use texting, so I wouldn’t expect him to answer it.’ His thumbs did a quick dance on his phone. ‘I don’t seem to have any photos, but you’ll have no trouble recognising him—he looks exactly like the actor Liam Neeson. With a beard.’

Elise produced a carrier bag and popped half a dozen singing hinnies inside. ‘For Carol,’ she said.

I thanked her, took the bag and said my goodbyes.

Outside, I got back into the car and took a minute to consider what I’d taken on. With any luck it’d be a simple Where’s-Wally exercise, after which I could collect my earnings and take a few days off. But something about this didn’t smell right, and I knew it wasn’t the scones.

Keying the mic, I said, ‘Car ten to base.’

Carol’s dulcet tones came back immediately. ‘Where’ve ye been, Terry? Thought ye’d gone down the plughole.’

I told her I had to take a break and would call in as soon as I could. Taking out Sven’s note, I looked at it. The name of the missing man sounded familiar, but it took me a few minutes to recall why.

‘For fuck’s sake…’ Tove Jansson—a Finnish writer of children’s books. In fact, a dead Finnish writer of children’s books. And not only that, she wasn’t even a man. Either Sven and his pal were having a laugh, or this Liam-Neeson lookalike didn’t understand the theory behind using made-up names.

Pulling out of the driveway, I set off for the coast.

Chapter 2

Carver’s Caravans wouldn’t be my first choice of a holiday destination—I’m not a fan of that type of retro mini resort with its own bars and clubhouse, as well as an overpriced and under-stocked

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