FIRST PAGES
 

The first pages of a novel. Always useful to get a feel for the writing style and the beginnings of the story. No embellishments, just whatever I put on the opening page(s) which I'll post here one by one.

(There are 26 books, and yes, you could check on Amazon's 'Look Inside', but not everybody does that).

 

I hope you find it useful.

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RED STATION
The first Harry Tate

spy thriller

 

Autumn 2008

 

 

Death came in at three minutes to four on a sluggish morning tide, and changed Harry Tate’s life forever.

It edged up a shrouded Essex inlet, a scrubby white 50-ft motor launch with a fly bridge, its engine puttering softly against the slow current. The exhaust sounds were muffled by a heavy early mist rolling along the banks, blanketing the dark marshland like cold candyfloss.

Three figures stood outlined by a flush of refracted light from the open cockpit. One was on the forward deck, a swirl of dreadlocks framing his head like a war helmet. He was holding a thick pole balanced on one shoulder. Number two, the helmsman, was a bulky shape up on the fly bridge, head turning constantly between the instrument panel and the banks on either side.

The third man stood on a swimming platform at the stern, inches above the murky wake. Skeletal, with long, straggly hair under a baseball cap, he had one hand down by his side, the other bracing himself on the rear rail.

‘It’s Pirates of the frigging Caribbean!’

The whisper drilled softly into Harry’s earpiece, gently mocking, forcing a smile in spite of the tension in his chest. The voice belonged to Bill Maloney, his MI5 colleague, in cover fifty yards along the bank to his right.

A light breeze lifted off the water, brushing past Harry’s position behind a hummock of coarse grass, fanning his face with the sour smell of mud and decay. The sickly tang of diesel oil seemed to ooze out of the ground everywhere, and something moist was seeping through his trousers. He tried not to think about the kinds of toxic waste festering beneath him from decades of commerce, skulduggery and neglect.

He toggled his radio. ‘Where the hell are you, Blue Team?’ The query was strained with urgency. As Ground Controller, he’d been chasing the back-up police unit for fifteen minutes with no response.

Still nothing. Accident or a comms malfunction? Either way, they weren’t here. He swore softly. Having been slashed at the last minute - economic demands, was the vague explanation – and now with the support van lost somewhere in the darkness, they were down to three men. With what was rumoured to be concealed in the boat’s its bilges, from bales of hash, ‘bricks’ of heroin each containing up to fifty individual pay-and-go bags, and enough methamphetamine crystals to send half the kids in London off their heads for a month, the prize was too valuable. They needed all the help they could get.

But it wasn’t there.

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Red Station final cover and back.JPG

SMART MOVES

(A Standalone novel)

 

I never thought of guys having bad hair days.

Bad razor days, sure. Relentless stubble and scraped skin is no joke – try kissing my grandmother. Bad head days, too, from too much of the wrong kind of booze. But that’s commonplace for anybody with a real life. Some problems, though, can’t be overcome with a slap of skin balm or a handful of pills.

‘You’re laying me off?’ The words dropped into the room like a stun-grenade and rolled across the carpet. I stared at my boss, Niall Dunckley, in disbelief.

‘Sign of the times, Jake,’ he replied flatly. ‘Sorry.’ I wondered if that was the beginning of a smile threatening to edge past his bloodless lips. They went well with his fish eyes and the strands of lank hair carefully arranged over his balding head. The overall effect gave him the appearance of an undertaker’s assistant. The kind who stays late at work for all the wrong reasons.

‘Why?’

Pathetic response, I know. But being laid off is having someone say, ‘We don’t need you.’ Or, ‘Get the fuck out of here’. Or, ‘We found someone we like better.’

Even in this business – what am I saying, especially in this business – it’s akin to a death sentence. A bullet behind the ear. A quiet visit from a bad person on a dark night. I mean, I didn’t know for sure if that had ever happened, but people talk. You hear stuff.

I should explain. I have this oddball kind of job; I work for a side-line operation in a multi-divisional business called HP&P. Nobody knows or cares what the initials stand for, or precisely what the company’s core business is. But I know it has its fingers in a great many pies from civil engineering to shipping to nightclubs - and allegedly, a few things in between.

It’s the in-betweens which we’re encouraged not to ask about.

Not that I’m in that sector. I’m a project troubleshooter, and it’s my job to solve problems in faraway places. A gentle talk here, a nudge there, a discreet payment if something gets stuck in the pipeline, that kind of thing. The company operates on a time-sensitive schedule, and delays are unhelpful to the bottom line. As are glitches caused by local officials trying to muscle in and cause problems for their own ends.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t uses physical pressure - I don’t have to. A sweetener with a local regional governor or a union boss usually does the trick, from Azerbaijan to Zambia and anywhere in between. If that doesn’t work I make a report to Niall Dunckley at HQ in London, and that’s the last I hear of it. Because by then all the talking and offers and mild threats of lay-offs will have been exhausted and it’s time to call in the big guns and for me to catch a plane out. I don’t actually know what the big guns are, but that’s where I’m encouraged to turn and look the other way.

The job pays well and I rarely get to follow up on a previous visit. If I do, it’s usually bad news because the project got canned and there’s a lot of name-calling going on. I’m just there to see that everybody knows whose fault it really is: theirs.

Over the three years I’ve been doing this I’ve managed to refrain from asking too many questions. It’s one of the main requirements of my job description. Come to think of it, it’s the only requirement.

Don’t ask, don’t nose, don’t look.

And because I find it easier to take the money and not rock the boat, I’ve gone along with it ever since. My bad, as the kids say. Still not sure what that means but it sounds about right. But it doesn’t mean I’m dead from the neck up and haven’t occasionally put two and two together and made seven. Being suspicious and doing something about it isn’t always that simple. Or wise.

What my job is, at least in some parts of the civilized world, might be regarded as slightly unethical. The use of money – slush funds as some people like to call it – to solve problems is never on the up-and-up. Sure, it’s been going on since time began and will continue. But bungs, bribes, emoluments, skims, unscheduled performance bonuses, call them whatever the hell you want – do serve a purpose. They oil the wheels.

In that sense, I’m a bag man.

The first instance I had of thinking things were a little unusual about my job was a year ago. Until then it had been pretty much the same; get on a plane, talk to people, find out what the problems are and look for a solution. That meant asking questions of local representatives and negotiating our end of the argument to get things moving. If I couldn’t get agreement there and then, I’d make a project-on-hold report and head for home. The rest was up to Dunckley and his management team. The big guns.

But I’d never been asked to deliver a package before.

This was an envelope to Denver, Colorado. Actually, I never made Denver city itself, just the airport arrivals hall. I’d been met by a sweaty guy in a suit, clutching a shiny briefcase. He looked stressed. A lawyer, I figured, since most lawyers wear stress like a second skin and that was the profession I seemed to meet a lot: men in suits and shiny cars, with that money smell mixed with a vague hint of effluent. He handed me a business card which matched the photocopy in my pocket, and in return I gave him an envelope before making my way up the stairs to the departures lounge for the return trip, as per instructions.

As I turned to look back down the stairs, I caught a flash view of Sweaty Suit being hustled away by two police officers, one on each arm. He didn’t look happy. For some reason I was relieved he didn’t look back and shout, ‘There he goes!’

When I got back to the office I relayed this incident to Dunckley. He listened, made a note or two on a lined pad, then gave me a sideways look before saying it was probably a private or local issue and to forget all about it. End of.

Strange stuff like that had happened on a few other occasions, and each time I’d come close without being picked up. It was like I was charmed. Eventually I came to the conclusion that whereas delivering these documents seemed to be an OK job, collecting them was a whole other issue.

Then a guy doing a similar job in another division disappeared. Just like that. His name was John Baddeley and we’d met a few times like ships in transit, one of us leaving, one arriving. It took me a few days to realise I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks, although that wasn’t surprising because he travelled as extensively as I did. When his desk was taken over by another suit I asked where Baddeley was, but the new guy shrugged and said he didn’t know and looked at me like I should go away. I asked around, but nobody knew a thing – not even the people he worked with. In fact it was obvious that lips had been zipped and I should stop poking my nose in.

Two days later I chanced on a news item about a body found floating in the river by Tower Bridge. A suicide, it was speculated, or a drunk who’d wandered too close to the embankment. It happens all the time along that stretch of London’s waterway; once in, with the cold and the currents, people don’t always come out alive.

It was John Baddeley.

I asked around some more, and before I knew it I was being marched into Dunckley’s office and being told to mind my own. Accidents, he’d said heavily, sometimes happened, and Baddeley had been reportedly stressed of late and must have found it all too much.

‘It’s a dangerous place, the river,’ he’d pointed out unnecessarily, ‘especially with a gutful of booze and a confused state of mind.’ He made it sound no worse than tripping and falling into a puddle on a wet Friday night.

‘Confused?’

‘You know what I mean.’ Dunckley’s voice was a snap, and he gave me his best fish-eyed look. His demeanour took on a whole new level of cold, and I sensed something I hadn’t really associated with him before: he might look like a creep but there was something about him that suddenly told me he’d be a dangerous man to cross. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it before. Maybe I’d never had to. As if to reinforce the message, a stranger came in and stood by the door. I hadn’t seen Dunckley call anyone, so I guessed he had a panic button on the floor beneath his desk. A quick flick of the foot sideways and help was on the way. The newcomer wore a smart, purple-toned security uniform but that was the only civilized thing about him. The rest was all bunched muscle and scar tissue and a wave of aggression coming off him like electricity.

‘Actually, I don’t.’ I turned back to Dunckley; it was easier on the nerves rather looking at King Kong. I nodded backwards. ‘Who’s this?’

Dunckley sighed and ignored my question. ‘You do good work for us, Jake. Always on time, never any issues, no questions asked. Until now, anyway.’ He leaned on his desk and stared hard at me. ‘Don’t go spoiling a fine record.’ He pointed at the door. ‘Now go about your business – our business – and forget the rest.’

The suited primate held the door open for me, and I took it as my signal to leave. But the way he leaned towards me and sniffed the air as I passed was the scariest thing I’d ever experienced. And I’ve seen scary before.

It hadn’t taken a genius to confirm that this weird, one-man division I worked for was connected with something very unusual and not entirely above-board.

And now I’d discovered they didn’t need me.

Smart Moves - via Canelo Books - Amazon - Kobo - Google Play - Apple - https://www.canelo.co/books/smart-moves/

 

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NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL

Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer

book #5

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

The woman arrived in a black VW Golf GTi. Her approach was watched by a man on the deserted fourth floor of an anonymous office building just off London’s Euston Road. As the vehicle turned into the car park below, he took out a mobile and pressed a button. He allowed it to ring once before cutting the connection.

The woman who stepped out of the car was tall, with blonde hair, neatly cut. Smart suit, dark court shoes. Professional. A flash of white slip peeped from beneath the hem of her skirt as she reached in for something on the passenger seat. When she ducked back out, she was holding a burgundy leather briefcase with a shoulder strap and gold buckles. She turned to look up at the office building, hand raised to shield her eyes against the setting sun, but the man knew she wouldn’t be able to see him from down there.

A movement behind him showed in the reflection from the window.

‘She’s here.’ He spoke in careful English, trying to flatten his tongue and get the words out of the base of his mouth where he felt his origins always betrayed him. ‘Are we still secure?’ His words were lost across the vast, empty floor space.

‘Yes, Boss. Nobody will bother us.’

‘Good. Take her to the basement. Make sure you get her briefcase.’

The other nodded and moved away. Moments later, a brief snatch of conversation echoed along the corridor, then faded. Elsewhere, silence returned as the building emptied for the day.

The man, who used the name Grigori, walked over to a desk, the only item of furniture in sight. On it was a cardboard folder, a touch telephone and a plastic in-tray. The last two were covered in dust. The folder contained everything he had needed to know about the woman: name, age, background, friends, past jobs, past loves.

Past everything.

He fed the folder into the mouth of a portable shredder on the floor beside the desk, and watched as the cardboard and its contents became strips of spaghetti. As of that moment, its subject ceased to be of interest to him.

Or, more importantly, a threat.

He reached into an inside jacket pocket and took out a sheet of paper and a photograph. The paper was a brief biography, the subject of which was - like the woman downstairs - a freelance reporter. She also had no ties, no close family and no obvious corporate loyalties. Another loner.

He preferred loners. They were uncomplicated.

He studied the photo; it might almost have been the same woman. Not as thin, perhaps, but the same blonde hair and pale skin. The same look of self-reliance.

He returned to the window as the driver of the Golf mounted the steps to the front entrance. Graceful, he thought idly. Elegant, even.

But a dead woman.

She just didn’t know it yet.

 

No Kiss for the Devil - book 5 of 5 - Kindle only - http://geni.us/1Zyj

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NO TEARS FOR THE LOST

Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer

book #4

Prologue

 

The box contained a severed finger.

It lay on a bed of cotton wool like a grisly jewel, dark in colour and slightly curled, the nail torn and rimmed with dirt. The amputation had been made just forward of the main knuckle, the separation ragged and crude, a flap of skin hanging on one side.

‘Who delivered this?’ He couldn’t take his eyes off it, his voice barely above a whisper. A faint smell of chemicals hung in the air, overlaid with something he didn’t recognise. The unstamped brown envelope which had contained the box lay discarded, the front bearing three simple words in bold print: Sir Kenneth Myburghe.

 ‘I don’t know, Sir Kenneth.’ The man in the smart grey suit spoke respectfully, his voice a deep rumble. He stood in the doorway, broad shoulders filling the frame. ‘It was on the doorstep.’ His face, all angles and crags, stayed carefully blank. ‘There was nobody about.’

‘Go check. Search the grounds.’ Myburghe brushed at a stray lock of distinguished grey hair above one ear. A faint sheen of perspiration had appeared on the mottled skin above his cheekbones, adding to the already unhealthy appearance of a gaunt face.

The man departed silently, leaving Myburghe alone with the object on his desk. It took a moment for him to realise that the finger in the box was a small one - a pinkie - and in studying the cut, he’d been ignoring something else lying alongside it.

It was a gold signet ring.

He took a tissue from a drawer, wet it and dabbed at the ring’s rim. Beneath the film of dirt – he tried not to think about what it might really be – was a crest, worn down by time and use. When he saw what it was, he felt sickened and sank into a nearby chair.

The ring had been commissioned and manufactured over a hundred years ago, barely twenty miles from where he was now sitting. Originating with his great-grandfather, it had been passed down the line of what had once been a noble and honourable family.

But that, he reflected, had been a long time ago. And the last person seen wearing this ring was barely nineteen years old.

His son, Christian.

No Tears for the Lost - book 4 of 5 - Kindle only - http://geni.us/v5Q

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NO SLEEP FOR THE DEAD

Riley Gavin & Frank Palmer

book #3

Germany – 1989

 

Like nature’s sugar icing, a thin layer of snow soon began to dust the runner’s body.

Two hundred metres away, beyond the strip of barren land marking the border between the two Germanys, a watchtower loomed against the sky, a sinister symbol of repression that would, like the Berlin Wall 300 kilometres to the north-east, soon be a ghostly landmark in history. On the tower, a guard in a heavy coat scanned the scene through binoculars. Below him, a patrol vehicle’s engine gave a raucous clatter. A guard-dog yelped eagerly, its cries echoed by others in the distance, each a soulful, lonely message, drifting on the wind across the fields.

Minutes before, the runner had been a living, breathing being, hugging the ground among the thin brush growing in a tangle along the low ridge. He had inched with agonising care past warning markers and stones, checking for tell-tale ripples in the soil indicating a mine, or the hair-thin glint of trip-wires. Ahead lay a field, his route to the West. A US army tower in the distance was a reflection of its East German counterpart. The thick windows showed no sign of movement.

He flexed his shoulders, dislodging a layer of ice crystals formed while lying motionless in the night. In the nearby tower, the guard yawned towards the coming dawn, impatient for his shift to end.

The runner wormed free of the thin cover, sucking in deep, energising breaths. Then he was up and stumbling at a stomach-burning crouch, one hand reaching to touch the frozen earth. Twenty metres, thirty, forty…he was in full view if the guard should turn and look west. Not that he would, if all went to plan…

He ran faster, responding to the tantalising pull of safety. Suddenly, over the sound of his exertions, a shout. His stomach tightened. He ran harder, dancing sideways as a searchlight sliced through the thinning gloom. He tripped and fell, then pushed off again, coat flapping like broken wings. The searchlight caught him a glancing blow, moved away then darted back, bathing him in its glare. His shadow, thrown ahead by the light, raced on alone, unstoppable toward the west.

Another shout, followed by two flat reports snapping out across the cold morning air. The runner staggered, splay-footed, then pitched forward and lay still.

And the new dawn began edging the horizon.

 

On the western side of the border, clear of the searchlight’s reach, stood three men. Two wore leather jackets and boots, with woollen hats pulled down over their ears. One of the men was zipping up a long, slim bag, which he threw over his shoulder.

The third man wore a long, dark coat and a burgundy-coloured cashmere scarf. Middle-aged, of medium height and build, with thinning, sandy hair, his glasses were speckled with moisture. He nodded to the others.

“Call it in,” he said quietly, his voice tinged with what sounded like relief.

The man with the bag walked over to a mud-spattered Range Rover nearby. Placing the bag on the rear seat, he picked up a radio handset and began to speak.

“Twenty minutes,” he announced minutes later, rejoining the others. He clapped his hands, the sound echoing out across the field.

The man in the long coat checked the emerging outline of some woods half a mile away, and a farmhouse, huddled low as if clinging to the earth. He thought he’d seen movement earlier, but knew that couldn’t be. Nerves, that was all.

“When they stop playing with that bloody searchlight,’ he muttered, “go fetch him. Don’t leave anything behind.” Then he turned to the Range Rover and climbed in. Picking up a flask, he unscrewed the top. The interior of the car instantly filled with the smell of coffee. As he poured his drink, the searchlight dipped and went out, and his two companions looked at each other, before stepping out warily across the uneven field.

Change was coming, the man was thinking idly, as he watched them. Change of a magnitude that would repaint this sorry corner of Europe forever. And God help those who hadn’t seen it coming.

The two men returned with the body, putting it down near the car. Twenty minutes later, a dark green Opel estate appeared from beyond a belt of trees, bouncing along the track from the main road. It was the only sign of movement, the headlights pushing back the gloom and highlighting the skeletal trees, withered grass and sagging fence posts marking the boundary of the farm’s land. The vehicle had a long radio aerial bolted to the tailgate, and contained two people.

The man got out to meet them, flicking away the remnants of his coffee.

No Sleep for the Dead - Book 3 of 5 - Kindle only - http://geni.us/10Ui

 

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No Help for the Dying

Riley Gavin & Frank Palmer

book #2

 

Prologue

The white van made two measured circuits of the block, drifting like a shabby ghost beneath the street lights. A curtain of rain rippled down the windscreen and out across the tarmac, lending the road the sheen of molten liquorice.  A digital clock in a shop window read 01.45.

The vehicle’s bodywork looked tired and scuffed beneath a layer of dirt, in sharp contrast to the precision sound of the engine. While this and the heavily tinted windows might have seemed unusual, to a casual onlooker it was simply another white van, doing what white vans do. On the third circuit, the vehicle slowed, swinging sharply into a side street. The tyres crunched through the nightly debris of fast-food cartons, discarded cigarette packets and greasy chip wrappers. A plastic water bottle resisted briefly before spinning away into the darkness.

‘Anywhere here.’ The man in the passenger seat took a bible from the dashboard, held it against his chest and caressed it absent-mindedly with his thumb.

The driver stopped across from a travel shop and a photo boutique. Wedged between them was a narrow alleyway like a gap in a row of teeth. No light reached into this recess, and whatever lay inside had been swallowed in a dark soup of shadow.

After a few moments the passenger door clicked open and the man with the bible stepped lightly to the ground. He stood for a moment, his breath vaporising in the cold air and quickly snatched away by the bitter March wind. The colourful glitter of Piccadilly, with its bright lights and electronic advertising panels, a relentless flow of people and noise, lay a short walk away. But none of that reached here.

The man was tall and thin, with rimless spectacles perched on a pale, bony face. His shoulders were loosely wrapped in a long coat covering dark pants and a black silk shirt with a mandarin collar, and on his feet he wore black, rubber-soled boots. He reached back into the van and lifted a silver metal flask from a box on the floor, then nodded to the driver and moved away. Seconds later he was swallowed by the dark.

He paused for his vision to adjust before stepping forward. He passed the windows of a pub, long shuttered and dead, and a network of scaffolding interlaced with ladders and boards. A row of wheelie bins waited with their accumulation of refuse. The smell was sharp and strong, a mix of old food, stale water and something unidentifiable.  He ignored it and continued into the gloom, favouring the wall to his right where the darkness gathered like molasses. There were stirrings from the shadows and an empty can clattered away from his foot. Something drummed against cardboard, and further on someone coughed, a brief bark of sound quickly stifled. Another voice cursed in a soft protest, blurred by the effects of alcohol or drugs or the bitter cold.

The man stopped alongside a battered skip, its solid presence indicated by the glow-worm speck of a warning lamp. He transferred the bible to one coat pocket and the flask to the other, and took out a slim, black Maglite torch. Bending easily, he reached out with his free hand, finding the slippery texture of a sleeping bag, the fabric stiff with ingrained grease and dirt. He ran his fingers along the top and located the zip pull. It snagged briefly before running free with a faint purr. The smell from inside was sharp and feral. He flicked on the Maglite.

The bag’s occupant came awake with a cry of alarm. The man was ready; placing one knee on the sleeper’s torso, he clamped a strong hand over the mouth, choking off any further sounds. When the struggles ceased, he shone the torch on the white face and fearful, blinking eyes.

It was the right one.

He put the torch down and withdrew the silver flask. As he unscrewed the cup one-handed, a heady aroma of tomato filled the air around him. He bent close to the sleeping bag.

‘I’ve got some soup for you, kid,’ he whispered softly. ‘Nice hot soup.’ He squeezed the occupant’s face, cupping the mouth into an elongated ‘O’. The skin was soft to the touch, as yet untainted by dirt or infection. He tipped the flask in one movement, using his body’s weight to stifle the sudden eruption of movement beneath him, a hideous parody of a lover’s embrace. He ignored the choking sounds and what might have been the beginning of an agonised scream and placed his hand back over the mouth. A spot of soup forced its way between his fingers and stung his cheek, but he ignored that, too. He continued pouring until the flask was empty and the body lay still.

When he removed his hand, there was a gloop-gloop sound as the last of the thick liquid found its way down, followed by a pop of an air bubble rising to the top. He checked the pulse.

Nothing.

He zipped the sleeping bag and replaced the top of the flask, then stood for a moment like a priest over a grave.

‘Tough luck, kid,’ he murmured softly. ‘Seems Daddy didn’t want you back badly enough.’ He flicked the spot of soup from his cheek, then turned and walked back the way he had come. He stopped at the mouth of the alleyway. His eyes moved across the dark recesses one last time, then he took out the bible, and clutching it to his chest, walked back to the waiting van.

No Help for the Dying - Book 2 0f 5 - Kindle only - http://geni.us/13KP

 

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No Peace for the Wicked  

Riley Gavin & Frank Palmer

book #1

The first old man died on the beach.

Unaware of his impending fate, he watched, huddled in a blanket, as gulls screamed over a plastic bottle bobbing in the choppy water, while under a heavy sky a tanker plodded up the Channel. Apart from him, the beach was deserted. It was too early in the season for day-trippers and too cold for beachcombers with their wretched metal detectors.

He wasn’t interested in seagulls or tankers. The birds were noisy and demanding, like people, and the tankers too remote. He had long ago given up interest in anything much, surrendering willingly to an ill-tempered isolation. Now all he had left was the creeping disease of old age, made bearable by the few bits of comfort a well-stocked bank account could buy. As long as the account received regular additions, that was all that concerned him.

A car approached along the promenade and he sank instinctively deeper into his deckchair, pulling the blanket tighter around him. If he’d wanted strangers stopping by for a chat he’d have hung out a sign.

Maybe it was Willis. His minder was due about now with a flask of coffee laced with something that would truly piss off his doctor, if only he knew.

The hairs on his neck stirred as the footsteps approached, bringing faint memories of other times when danger had moved against him.

Well, he’d faced that and usually walked away laughing.

The newcomer stopped behind him, so close he must have been staring down at the top of his head. He fought a strong desire to turn and look. Damn him! He’d sit and defy the intruder to come round and look him in the eye.

Whoever it was didn’t bother. Instead the old man heard a rustle of cloth and a familiar metallic click. It turned his blood to water. Then the seagulls and the wind, the impending rain and the tanker, all ceased to matter.

 

Half a mile away, in a block of exclusive flats overlooking the sea front, another old man stared out to sea, puffing on his first cigar of the day. He knew it would likely kill him, but he didn’t give a bugger. Too old to let it worry him now, anyway. He wriggled his toes into the pile of his new carpet. Nothing like the feel of a fresh nap, he thought. About as far from Linoleum as it was possible to get.

He brushed a speck of ash from his sweater and debated going for a walk. Over to the east he could see two figures down on the pebbles. One appeared to be huddled in a deckchair, the other standing behind him. Bloody mad, some people, he thought idly. Probably asylum seekers, looking for something to steal.

The standing figure appeared to be holding a hand out to the other. Offering something maybe, or pointing. There was something familiar in the stance that made the cigar smoker shiver. He decided he was better off staying in. Far too cold to venture out, anyway. Easy way to catch a chill. In any case, the boys would be here later for a game of cards.

He glanced at the coffee table, with its single sheet of paper covered in neatly typed figures. He smiled momentarily. Money was still rolling in, and as long as the managers didn’t get greedy and the other two let him run things the way he always had since… well, since the changeover, it should be fine.

The front door clicked. Startled, he swung round. Two figures were standing in the hallway as if they had materialised out of the walls. Their heavy coats and dark slacks gave them the appearance of men attending a funeral.

“What the fuck do you want?” he demanded. For the first time in years he felt a skewer of fear deep in his gut. “How d’you get in?”

The leading figure stepped forward and pointed at the smoker. There was a sharp, flat sound and the cigar snapped into the air. It landed on the new carpet where it sizzled pungently.

The old man fell alongside it.

The second newcomer stepped past the gunman and carefully retrieved the cigar. He placed it in an ashtray where it could burn safely without threatening the other residents in the tower block.

Then both men stepped across to the window and looked out. Over to the east a solitary figure was walking up the beach towards a car parked on the promenade. Behind him was a figure slumped in a deckchair as though sleeping.

The two men turned and left the flat, barely glancing at the man lying on the floor.

Job done.

No Peace for the Wicked - Book 1 of 5 - Kindle only:  http://geni.us/36iU

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