Alice in Anger (Tequila Mockingbird 2) -Preview

The following excerpt is from Alice in Anger, the follow up to Ice Cold Alice under my pseudonym, CP Wilson. The excerpt introduces Sam, who will drag Tequila from her settled life in France and be her main adversary for the book.

It is unedited:

Alice

Abigail lifted her chin. Biting carefully, she removed a strip of steak from her fork whilst she assessed him. The candlelight danced in her eyes. Soft music he’d been unaware of drifted into his awareness, coating the moment in a soft perfection.

Leaning across the table, Sam laid his hand over one of Abigail’s.

“You look great, Abbie.”

She bobbed a tight nod. I know.

She did know, they both did.

Sam grinned watching her empty the last of a dark red from her glass. Holding the glass to the side of her body, she tilted it slightly signalling the serving staff. In moments, an eager waiter refilled it, basking in her smile as she thanked him. Waiters always seemed attentive when Sam dined with Abbie. Her dark hair, skin and very green eyes, combined with her athletic frame, drew many looks of admiration. Over the decade or so he’d been married to Abbie, Sam had become accustomed to the attention his wife received, for the most part.

Leaning back Sam waited until his wife’s attention returned to him.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had time together like this, Abbie.” Sam said kindly.

Abigail’s eyebrows lifted and her lips thinned accusingly. Sam could’ve kicked himself. He could easily interpret her taut expression, it was one she’d worn often. And whose fault is that? It asked of him silently.

Sam improvised a transparent gloss-over.

“It’s nice,” he added quickly. “No kids, just us. Time to talk, to relax.” He watched Abbie decide to let it go and relaxed into his seat a fraction.

“Yes… it is,” Abigail replied tartly. Her tone signalled an end to the thread of the conversation, such as it was.

 

Their waiter returned; tidying away plates and glasses as the couple exchanged comments and traded tales of their kids’ week back and forth. The busy server, rewarded by another of Abigail’s appreciative smiles, stepped quickly in his duties. Sam shoved a prickle of mild annoyance away.

“Hard to believe that they’re getting so big, isn’t it?” Sam said. Abigail’s eyes glazed slightly. “I suppose so,” she offered distractedly.

Keen to avoid another argument, or any frostiness, Sam decided a break was needed.

Shoving his chair back, Sam jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “Just going to the loo, love.” Abigail shrugged with one shoulder, then leaned over to offer her glass for refill once again. Passing the obliging waiter en-route, Sam turned aside from the man’s smirk. The waiter’s attitude was hardly a new experience for Sam. Even his friends habitually made a standing joke of asking how he’d got a wife as beautiful as Abigail, when he himself was just a pretty average specimen. I’d be happy to look after her while you’re on your next tour, Sarge. It was a soldier’s joke, and a common one, but seemed to possess more intent, a sharpened edge when said of his wife.

A notion tugged at Sam’s subconscious, causing him to look back to the table from the other side of the dining room.

Abigail’s glass was once again full. Pressing the edge to her mouth, she looked over its lip, sharing a joke with the waiter. The young man, clearly at ease in her presence, rested his rear end against their table before leaning in to exchange whispers with Abigail. Observing them huddled closely, their cheeks pressed together, Sam felt something akin to anger rise in his chest. He was not a man controlled by jealousy or by his emotions. Recalling his training, Sam composed himself. Straightening his back, he forced himself to feel a levity that didn’t come naturally, or easily.

A smile almost came to his mouth. He almost shrugged off the moment… and then he saw the waiter’s hand reach for and squeeze his wife’s thigh. Abigail returned the gesture, her hand roaming high on his thigh. Sam’s perception of the world around him reddened and vanished.

 

A series of heavy strides carried Sam to the table. With an iron grip, he grabbed at the waiter’s shoulder from behind. Pulling hard at the man, he crashed the waiter’s rear torso down onto the table shattering the glassware. Sam pinned the waiter to the table with his left hand, holding him in place effortlessly whilst his right began pummelling hammer strikes into the prone man’s nose. Blood and snot exploded from the young man’s face. Sam shifted his grip. Grabbing the waiter by the back of his neck he forced him to sit before slamming him back downwards once again with a vicious elbow strike to the bridge of his nose.

The waiter folded into a defensive embryo curl, exposing some deep wounds from the table’s glassware in the flesh of his back.

Somewhere far away, Abigail shouted at Sam and beat his upper back with her fists. Sam, barely aware of her blows, stepped forward to further punish the young waiter. Abruptly he was dragged backwards by several strong hands. Landing on his spine heavily, Sam’s awareness began to return as three waiters pinned his arms and torso to the carpeted floor.

A thread-bare tendril of conscious control was all he possessed, but it was enough with which to rein himself in, to extinguish the savage intent that had effortlessly carried him to act so brutally.

Laid there on the restaurant carpet, the room around him began to seep in once again. A young couple stood with their backs pressed to the wall, arms around, shielding each other from the madman who had spoiled their evening.

A toddler screamed. Her mother was glaring at Sam whilst trying futilely to comfort her.

I’m sorry, I’m a father myself, part of him pleaded pathetically.

The young waiter he had attacked still lay on the table top, the restaurant owner, the kid’s father, tended to him. He bled profusely from greying face and from his punctured and shredded back. From Sam’s newly adjusted perspective, the injured waiter suddenly looked very young. The waiter’s father locked eyes with Sam. Fury and outrage surged through the angry father. Several of his staff held him as he surged to his feet.

At length, blue lights flashed and danced across the windows and ceiling. Sam let go of a breath he hadn’t been aware he’d been holding and the final remnants of his spent rage, sagging to the floor. Turning his head to the right, he watched Abigail’s heels depart the room.

 

Ice Cold Alice, from Bloodhound Books, is available now at Amazon.

Alice in Anger will be published soon. 

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The Revelation Room by Mark Tilbury – Review

Review:

Dark intent? Check. Religious irreverence, bordering on satire? Check. The blackest of humour tinged with biting dialogue? Check. I’m all in for the revelation Room.

Told in third person-past tense throughout, Tilbury’s Revelation Room is a hugely enjoyable slash across the veneer of decent society, exposing some of the grimmest and most graphic insights into the depths of the human soul and capacity for denial, cruelty and for goodness.

Our main protagonists, undercover in a cult, are beautifully-rendered, fully fleshed-out leads possessed of solid motivations and are the perfect creations to guide the reader through Tilbury’s tantalising and tightly plotted story.

In the Revelation Room, we find a writer who is absolutely on-point with his use of dialogue to expose intent and characterisation. Tilbury’s use of short, snappy sentences contrasted by longer monologues, succeeds in conveying the emotion or urgency of the particular scene. Excellent structure. The characterisation is a particularly strong element in this work.

 

At times the novel feels surreal, occasionally dangerous and often cutting in its darkly humorous moments and cutting observations.

A confident, swaggering, unapologetic fiend of a novel from a writer to watch.

 

 

Rev-room cover

Book blurb for The Revelation Room:

Ben Whittle’s father, a private investigator, has been taken captive by a cult whilst investigating the case of a missing girl. When Ben receives a desperate call from his father asking for help he is drawn into a dark underground world. As Ben retraces the last known steps of the missing girl he discovers his only option left is to join the cult and rescue his father from the inside. The leader of the cult, Edward Ebb, is a psychopathic egocentric who uses his position to control his small group of followers in The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. When he initiates Ben into the group it soon becomes apparent how sick and twisted Ebb is. Ben must find his father and the missing girl, but the odds are stacked against him and time is running out. Can Ben rescue his father and the girl and escape with his life? And what is the gruesome secret concealed in the Revelation Room? The Revelation Room is the first in a new series of psychological mystery thrillers.

 

Author bio:

Mark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised. After serving in the Royal Navy and raising his two daughters after being widowed, Mark finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused. He’s always had a keen interest in writing, and is extremely proud to have his third novel, The Abattoir of Dreams, published, and The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused re-launched, by Bloodhound Books. When he’s not writing, Mark can be found trying and failing to master blues guitar, and taking walks around the beautiful county of Cumbria.

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon

 

 

It’s Only a Moment – A charity project in aid of Alzheimer’s

It’s Only a Moment.

Auntie Lizzie found me on the main street of my hometown (Bellshill), despondent and crying over something I don’t recall, but I’m sure it seemed world-ending to fifteen year-old me.

Auntie Lizzie took me into a little baker’s, (Dalziel’s) gave me tea and cake and just let me talk at her.

When I’d finished moaning, and sobbing and snotting, she simply took my hand and gently told me that ‘It’s only a moment in time, son. It’ll pass.’ We talked some more, had a laugh about some things and parted. It was probably one of the last times I saw Lizzie.

Many times through my life, happy times, hard times, heart break and emotional despair, I’ve recited Auntie Lizzie’s words to myself. To remind myself that it will pass, that it was only a moment.

 

Moments are something that defines Alzheimer’s, for those living with the condition and for those supporting someone they love through it. Moments of lucidity, or joy or anger or despair. Moments where the person is lost, or trapped deep inside themselves under the weight of misfiring neurones and jumbled memories, when their very sense of identity seems a distant chink of light in a dark tunnel.

A series of moments, where the present world seems alien, and unfamiliar and cruel…perhaps. Sometimes it seems wondrous, but not often. Moments where they return to themselves and smile at someone who loves them in recognition. Just a smile, but that moment reminds you that they are in there and still love you. That moment returns part of your soul to you as surely as it does theirs.

Moments that pass. Moments that are excruciating; but beautiful moments also that, despite the maze they walk in, makes you rediscover that part of them you thought may be gone. A squeeze of a hand. A wink, a smile. The words, I love you.

Moments. They pass even when sometimes we wish they wouldn’t.

Mark Wilson

May, 2017

 

Today sees the release of Ryan Bracha’s Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn project. An ambitious undertaking, Ryan brought together a group of writers (me included) with the remit, ‘Tell a story about this man named frank who has just died’. At that point Ryan’s task was to weave these disparate voices and stories and writing styles into a cohesive, flowing novel. A task which he succeeded in, and with quite some flair.

By the project’s end, Bracha and I discussed which charities we’d like to receive all proceeds from the sale of this book. I proposed Alzheimer’s charities, as my aunt had died recently. Auntie Lizzie isn’t the only relative in my family to have endured this condition.

Whilst I hadn’t seen my auntie in a number of years, her death (as these things often do) brought back some long forgotten memories of a time when Lizzie helped me.

 

All proceeds from the sale of Prank Peppercorn will got to Alzheimer’s charities. You can find more information on Alzheimer’s here:

 

http://www.alzscot.org/

http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

https://www.dementiauk.org/

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Blurb:

Thirteen ways to remember the dead. Thirteen histories of a loving husband.

Betty Peppercorn is burning her husband Frank today. Well, she’s burning her property. The corpse she was left with as a reward for loving somebody for better or worse. Frank exists only in her thoughts, anymore. To her knowledge, Frank had no friends. Betty’s not even sure he existed before they met. It comes as a major surprise, then, when several strange faces appear at the funeral, each of them bringing their own stories of what Frank meant to them. As the day goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank was not the man she thought he was. Thirteen new and established writers collide in this brand new novel-of-stories project from Ryan Bracha, the brains behind Twelve Mad Men, The Switched, and The Dead Man Trilogy.

All proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s charities. Featuring contributions from: Dominic Adler – The Ninth Circle Jason Beech – Moorlands Kevin Berg – Indifference Paul D. Brazill – A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, Kill Me Quick Robert Cowan – The Search For Ethan, For All is Vanity Craig Furchtenicht – Dimebag Bandits, Behind the 8 Ball Shervin Jamali – The Devil’s Lieutenant Jason Michel – The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat Allen Miles – This is How You Disappear Alex Shaw – The Aidan Snow series Martin Stanley – The Gamblers, Glasgow Grin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum Mark Wilson (CP Wilson) – The dEaDINBURGH series, On The Seventh Day, Ice Cold Alice

 

 

The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn is available now from Abrachadabra books at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

After Call Work: Gross Misconduct by Ryan Bracha – Review

This novel is a sequel to After Call Work: Verbal Warning which was one of my favourite books of 2016.
In This follow-up, subtitled ‘Gross Misconduct’, we once again encounter the insipid call centre introduced in Book 1. Rather than simply continue the story, utilising the same characters, and expanding on the previous events, Bracha has chosen to introduce a handful of new characters for his readers to love, as well as build on some familiar players from Book 1.
As is Bracha’s custom, he avoids the easy route and avoids giving his readers a simple sequel to the previous work, choosing instead to tell a story that runs parallel to the events in Book 1, with the plotlines overlapping, converging and diverging. This decision is exactly the type of work ethic and tight plotting that makes Bracha the standout Indie writer on the UK scene.
Bracha continues to grow as a writer, utilising a simple, unflashy, first-person, present-tense narrative, but peppering it with some lovely technical quirks, my favourite of which is the odd occasion where he breaks the fourth wall, slyly making the reader complicit In his character’s choices and self-justifications.
Despite this choice of narrative style, Bracha’s precise characterisation lends each of his players a distinct and unmistakable voice. It’s quite a feat.

bra

Another step forward in Bracha’s development, and quite simply a fantastically entertaining read.

 

You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon

Alice – Chapter One Preview

The following excerpt is from my upcoming novel, ‘Alice’, due for release in autumn, 2016. The book is being released under the pseudonym C.P. Wilson:

Copyright, Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

Alice-favourite copy

1

 “It’s about time you got your arse in gear,” he growls from his chair. Remaining silent. I bow my head, chin to my chest. Chopping carrots, I have my back to him. The chair screeches across the tiles as he rises to his feet. Fists thumping the table top, he demands, “How long is that gonnae be. Fuckin’ starving here.”

“Not long now, Mike,” I tell him quietly.

I can feel him regard me for a few moments. Lighting a cigarette, he blows the smoke out forcefully.

“You sound funny, you’d better not have a cold coming on.”

“Just allergies,” I reply.

“Good,” he barks, “Can’t be doing with you being off your game just now.” He returns to his chair. “Your hair looks different,” he accuses. “Who you trying to impress?”

I force cheer into my voice, “No-one, Mike. Would you like a beer?”

He snorts his derision at me, “Took you long enough to ask.”

Placing the chopping knife onto the counter-top, I keep my back to him as I reach into the freezer.

“Beer’s in the fridge,” he cuts in. “Idiot.”

“Oh, I put one in here a little while before you came home, love. Get it nice and cold for you.”

“Good.”

Keeping my chin tucked in low to my chest, my face obscured by my red hair, I hand him the beer without opening it.

Mike stares at the can in my hand, incredulous. “What am I supposed to do with that?” he asks. I let the can slip from my fingers. His eyes follow it to the tiles, widening as the can splits upon impact, sending a spray of beer scooshing around the kitchen.

When he looks back up at me, I watch his face through strands of my hair. Morphing from surprise to a grotesque anger tinged with joy, he stands, pulling his belt from his waist.

“Dearie me. That was unfortunate.” He sing-songs the words. The bastard is delighted to be given an excuse to punish me. Before he strikes, I lift my chin, showing him my face for the first time since he arrived home. My right hand is already in motion.  Our eyes meet and the shock breaks his glazed predatory leer. “Who the fu…”

Sliding six inches of ice-blade into his neck, I shove him back into his seat, turning the blade in his neck to widen the gash in his carotid artery as he flumps onto his rump.

Mike’s eyes are fixed on mine as I clamber to sit astride him, in his lap, a leg at each side, pinning his jerking legs. His belt has fallen to the tiles, his hands claw at his own slick neck. “You’re not…” he coughs blood-mucus.

Withdrawing my weapon from his neck, my eyes flick to the edge for a second. The arterial spray redecorates the walls. Noting that the edge is still intact, I plunge the tip into his right eye.

He screams. The Sclera of his eye slides down a few millimetres on my knife tip.

“No I’m not Sadie,” I say quietly. Sadie is gone. Despite the mortal wound in his neck, the mad woman on his lap and the ice-blade in his eye, hatefulness flickers once more in Mike. He can’t stand that she’s out of his reach.

“She’s not coming back, Michael,” I tell him. Don’t bother with the tantrum, you don’t have the strength anyway. I nod across at the blood-splattered fridge.”

My words are wasted, he’s already slipping deep into shock. The arterial spray from his neck has died to a throbbing squirt in time with the slowing beat of his heart.

Disappointed at the speed of his death, I pull the weapon from his eye which flops onto his upper cheek; a thick mishmash of cords and vessels snaking into the socket. Most of the ice-blade is wet now, its structure is beginning to disappear. Unwrapping the leather straps from around the handle, I stand and place the now-slippery weapon onto his lap.

Clawing irritably at an itch under the wig, I remove Sadie’s clothes and stuff them into a carrier bag. Stood in only black leggings and long sleeve T, I shiver upon opening the front door. The cool darkness rushes into the heated room as I leave, stirring the iron blood smell around the room then sucking it out into the darkening night. Suddenly, I wish I hadn’t left my jacket on the bike. Never mind.

“Bye, Mike.”

Stepping out into the Edinburgh dusk, I briskly walk the five miles to where I left my bike in the shadows of a Sycamore, on Grosvenor Crescent. A few minutes later I’m on St John’s road, headed for the M8.

 ∞∞∞

 The warmth of my Hamilton apartment embraces me. Headed directly to the living room, I make a quick check that my blinds are closed, and that the fire I lit earlier is of sufficient size and intensity. Absent-mindedly singing to myself, I retrieve the leather strapping from the ice-blade’s handle and drop it into the fire. Hand over hand I roll Sadie’s clothes into a tight cylinder and lay them onto the fire.  There they join the leather strap, followed by, the wig which crinkles and melts as it lands in the heat. Left wearing a simple plastic bodysuit, I watch the flames devour the last of Sadie, only a faint sense of loss tugs at me. The flames swell and dance around as I unzip the plastic suit, leaving myself naked. Kicking the plastic suit into the fire along with the rest I head to the bathroom.

Almost a full half hour later- skin reddened from the long immersion in the heat and smelling strongly of carbolic soap- I step carefully from the cubicle. Catching myself in the mirror, I toss a wink then pad, wet-footed into the bedroom. The white tiles underfoot throughout my little apartment, feel cool and clean against my skin. The clinical detachment of the day- washed from my body as surely as any traces of Mike and Sadie’s home- is replaced by the glow of expectation.

Once dried, perfumed and dressed, I leave my little apartment at the Racecourse. My Ducati seems to grin at me from the garage as I step inside. Come on, let’s fly.

Like I need any more exhilaration tonight.

   ∞∞∞

 The lock slips open. Silently I slide into the hallway, closing the door gently behind me. My phone screen tells me that it’s two am. Choosing my stairs carefully on the ascent, I use the sides of each stair, feet in against the wall where they’re less likely to creak the boards beneath. I’m good at this, the sneaky stuff. Before I reach the topmost stair, the sound of his snoring reaches my ears. Unwilled, a smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. In a few paces, I’m through the bedroom door, peeling clothes as I pad silently towards the bed. Stealth matters more than neatness, so I leave my clothes crumpled on the landing floor.

Abruptly his voice breaks my stride,” Hey, hon. How did the research go?”

I enter the room and grin broadly at him. “Sorry, love. Was trying not to wake you.”

Jimmy sits, two pillows propping him. God, he looks tired.

“S’okay. Was only dozing anyway,” he smiles at me. “How’d it go? Get what you need?”

“I did, thanks, love,” I say, truthfully.

The moonlight coming in through the window cools the room, giving it a waxy look. He never draws the bloody curtains. Fussing at the tie-backs I speak over my shoulder, “Well, get back to sleep,” I admonish. “You’ve on an early shift in the morning.”

Jim nods, “Aye, I will, but c’mon.” He pats my side of the bed, “Spoon time.”

“Just let me brush my teeth, love. Won’t be long.”

“No shower?” he asks. “Had one at the gym,” I tell him as he slips under the covers, his back to the vacant space in the bed.

“Mmhmm,” good,” he drowses.

A few minutes later, I curve my cool body around his, absorbing his heat.

“G’night, Alice,” he mumbles.

“G’night, love.”

 

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon UK and US

 

 

 

After Call Work by Ryan Bracha – Review

Following his success with The Dead Man Series and The Switched, Ryan Bracha has followed up his best works to date by upping the ante once again

After stepping out in the too-accurate dystopian world of New Britain and the Fucked up, satire, The Switched, Bracha is keeping things simple this time and returning to more ‘normal’ settings and characters; as normal as a journey in Brachaland gets at any rate.

Set in a fictional call centre, After Call Work, follows two central characters and narratives. Barry is the consummate, loser. A jobsworth, an underachiever and borderline suicidal, Barry fumbles his way through knife with all the social skills and guile of a five year old.

Penny is more self-assured. Popular, confident and the focus of Barry’s growing desire, the two set things in motion neither can predict nor control.

As regular Bracha-readers have come to expect, the writing is pacey, technically skilful, creative and smacks of great characteristic and character development. Setting the novel in the real world, rather than some futuristic or body-switching earth, takes nothing from the creativity or entertainment of the novel. What it does though is to allow Bracha to utilise all of his skills in placing real people in messed-up situations and peeling away at their emotions, personality, their beliefs in who they are and their ability to endure to the end of his novel.

Bracha has all the talent of a Billy Connelly or a Roddy Doyle in observing people and conveying the best and worst of human nature to his readers with deadly and often funny accuracy.

After Call Work: Verbal Warning is book 1 in a new series. I’m all in.

If you’ve never read a Bracha book before, this is the place to start. If you’re a long term reader, strap in and enjoy another top-notch addition to Bracha’s bulging body of work.

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You can find Ryan and his books at Amazon UK and US.

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

Jess is a new character created for the fourth dEaDINBURGH novel. 

The following excerpt is pre-edit and copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:




One Year after The Battle of Edinburgh Castle

Jess

 

 

The tree bark digs into my back but does not betray my position. The afternoon’s rain has soaked though enough to lend the outer bark a little flexibility. A snap of underbrush to my left sends me to my haunches. Spider-like, hands and feet, I crawl silently from my cover under the oak, moving across the wettest, softest parts of detritus towards a fox hole I’m likely small enough to fit inside.

Feet first, I slide my entire body length into the burrow; silently praying that foxy isn’t home. My legs continue to disappear into the humid darkness. Each inch of progress without resistance from earth or occupant slows my pulse. Finally, I clear the burrow entrance with my head without incident and pull some brush over the opening.

My legs are extended straight behind me, my butt scrapes the ceiling of the burrow, the crown of my head touches there also and my chin the ground. My arms are extended in front of me, fingertips mere centimetres from the brush I’ve placed to disguise my sanctuary. It’s a tight fit, even for me, the smallest and youngest of my community. Just as I’ve been taught, I breathe very deliberately and deeply, taking a small part of my mind elsewhere, the Claymore’s pavilion, a sun-drenched patio area I lounge and read in regularly. Once I mocked the gentle passiveness of Claude’s training.

Now, entombed in damp, warm earth, my only protection from the four adults trailing me, I say a silent prayer thanking him for teaching me to tame my physiological responses and take my mind elsewhere.

 

The footsteps of two of them draw near and I pull my scarf up over my mouth that my breath- fogging on the cool springtime air- doesn’t betray my presence.

Abruptly they appear a man and a woman. As I’ve been trained to, I take in their appearance, their mannerisms, their gait, physical strength, the movement of their bodies; likely stamina and flexibility. I assess the danger they present to me and decide to stay clear of them for now.

The man has been tracking me through the undergrowth of the forest. This surprises me, it shouldn’t, no-one survives in the dead city without some level of skill. I mentally chide myself for having assumed that he was less than able, simply because he did not walk, move or behave like a fighter. He may not have the physical attributes to make me wary of him, but his mind and senses are quick. Mindful of his busy eyes, I slow my breathing further and relax my muscles lest an involuntary tic or twitch betrays me.

The man is young, perhaps twenty-two. The woman with him looks to be around forty, I find it hard to tell with people that old. He makes a wide sweep around the clearing directly outside where I lay. The woman rests against the same trunk I took cover behind a few moments previously. Fearful that somehow they’ll hear the movement, I fight a smile that’s tugging as she obliterates all trace of my having leaned there for a spell with her own actions.

The young man scans the ground, his eyes moving to the oak where his companion rests her rear. “The trail ends there, at that oak tree you’re under,” he gasps worriedly. “There are a few scratches here and there.” He points out a fee tracks in the leaf litter leading away from my actual position. “But, anything could’ve made them, Mags.”

The woman’s eyes fill with tears. “She’s just a kid, Michael. She can’t be more than eleven or twelve years old. We have to try to help her. God knows what these maniacs have in mind for her.”

The man, Michael roots around, shuffling leaves and branches aside with his feet fruitlessly. A sag of his shoulders set the woman off again.

“C’mon Michael,” she screeches.

Michael’s face is a mask of fear. “For God’s sake be quiet, Mags,” he hisses. They’re bound to be gaining on us by now.”

Mags snuffs at her sleeve, her eyes boring into Michaels, but stays silent.

“You saw what they did to the group they sent out here yesterday.

Mags’ face blanches at the memory.

“C’mon,” Michael says softly. “Let’s keep moving.”

Mags, making enough noise and leaving a trail obvious enough to give her position away to even the most dim-witted pursuer, follows Michael, who would plainly be better off leaving her behind.

 

A few minutes after they leave, the other two from their group stumble through the same little clearing. Both men, they are an odd pairing. One of them is small, clearly terrified. He has a bookish look to him, soft hands and a thin frame. The movement of his eyes and head as he walks reminds me of those of a frightened sparrow, starting at shadows and woodland sounds.

The other man is a big one. Heavily packed with functional-looking muscle, his movement screams not just strength but speed also. He trudges clumsily, which tells me he has no finesse to him. It also implies that he doesn’t require any. His power and speed would make any subtle execution of combat a hindrance to him. Come within six feet of those shovel-hands and gigantic feet at the ends of long powerful limbs and he’s in control of the situation.

I mentally note all of this, comparing it with past experience and formulating a handful of possible strategies. The others shouldn’t be too much of a problem to evade or engage. This one is going to be a challenge.

The giant turns angrily to his cowering companion. “Stay here.” He barks. The smaller man whimpers…an actual whimper, like a cowed dog.

The giant’s lip curls into a sneer. “You shut the hell up, Steve,” he says pointing a thick sausage finger into the smaller man’s face.

Steve lowers his eyes.

The giant sighs. “Look, I just need to go follow Mags and Mike’s trail. I’ll catch up to them and be back for you, alright?”

Steve manages a nod. “You think they caught up to that wee lassie?” he asks.

The Giant shrugs, “Don’t know, don’t care. They were stupid to follow her.”

Conversation over, the giant smoothly disappears into the dense treeline, leaving Steve to find himself a stump for a seat.

Seated with his back facing my bolt hole, Steve shifts and fidgets so much he masks the minute sounds of me removing my camouflage and shifting my body across the ground, out of the burrow. Slowly I use my fingers and toes to gradually drag myself from the close confines of the fox burrow. The sounds of the forest keep his sparrow eyes darting to all the wrong places as I clear my knees from the burrow and rise silently to the balls of my feet.

Picking my way around any twigs or other potential noisemakers, I near him, smiling to myself at the dullness, or perhaps shrillness, of his senses. I draw my blade as I take one final light step towards him. Something primal in his psyche recognises a predator stalking him, but Steve is simply too busy jumping at shadows to listen to the ancient voice in his head trying to alert him to the hunter. Me.

My blade cuts through his carotid artery as my hand stifles any trace of sound from his mouth. I follow up with a stab through his voice box, just in case then shove him face first to the leafy ground to die quietly.

One down, three to go.

Three of the Ringed shuffle clumsily into the clearing, drawn by the loo, I suppose.

Fighting the urge to whoop with the thrill of the kill, I dampen my excitement and follow the giant’s messy trail, leaving the Ringed to their meal.
dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is due for publication on 13th July, 2016 and available to pre-order now at Amazon