The Red And The Grey – Chapter 1

The Red And The Grey is a novel plotted by Patrick Wilson and written by Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson. Coming autumn, 2019.

The following excerpt is unedited and is copyright to Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson Copyright, 2019.

red moon during night time

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

 

Chapter 1

 

Hitting The Target

 

“Like this, Alfie.”

Shifting the young squirrel’s hold, Brielle loosened his right hand, rotating his entire grip, and then his left, pinching his fingers tighter around the bark cradle of the hand-made catapult.

“Try it now,” she instructed him gently.

 

Taking a step back, she whispered to him, willing the small kit on. “Breathe, and release.”

A second later she watched the Alfie’s chest deflate and his forearms tense as he drew tension into the weapon.

Alfie had already attempted seven shots, compared to three that most of his classmates had taken, to hit the target. Small for his age, he had crafted a gorgeous catapult from willow twigs and stretchy vines. One of the finest Brielle had seen for a kit his age. His hands, despite dogged hours of practice, still struggled to summon the strength needed to make best use of his superb weapon.

Brielle held her own breath willing the kit on. Alfie’s gaze narrowed.

Clunk.

His class mates, cheered and all tension disappeared from the small kit’s body. Ears twitching, he turned to look up at his teacher.

“Thanks, Mrs Tearmann,” he grinned.

 

Brielle offered him a smile of her own. Placing her arm around him, she drew him closer that only he might hear her words.

“Determination, Alfie. And focus,” she whispered. Behind her, Brielle’s own children mouthed the mantra, affectionately mocking their mother.

 She had repeated the mantra to the group countless times over weeks. Weeks in which the little kit had steadfastly practiced despite so many failures.

Alfie nodded silently. Basking in his little victory.

 

“Not bad for a runt!”

Brielle whipped her head around to admonish the owner of the gruff voice.

Locking her eyes on their guard, Lars, she bored them into the Grey.

Beside her, Alfie’s little body sagged, his elation at his small triumph crushed.

“Mind your own business, Lars,” Brielle instructed the Grey.

She bobbed a nod down at Alfie. “Any one of these kits is a better shot than you are.”

Lars, lounging on a mossy tree stump beside his partner, waved her off lazily. “Greys don’t need those ridiculous weapons. “Above it, we are,” Lars grinned.

Infuriated by his casual disdain, Brielle felt heat rise in her cheeks and ears.

“Incapable, is what Greys are,” Brielle replied.

 

Lars rose to his feet, covering the ground between them faster than Brielle could follow the movement. Finding the large Grey stood over her, pressing his bulk against her chest, Brielle ignored her instincts to back away. She lifted her chin and pushed right back with her full weight.

The kits in her class gasped. “You’ve no right to…”

Lars silenced her with a lightning fast slap to her cheek that sent the Red sprawling to the forest floor.

Dazed, Brielle struggled focus her eyes, but sensed that Tod had placed himself between her and the Grey. Forcing her eyes to obey, Brielle cast her glance over the kits in her class. Most of them had stayed back. Her eldest daughter, Chase, stood, her arms wide, corralling and comforting the younger Reds. Chase’s little sister, Bendis, amongst them.

Lars, on his hind legs, had risen up to his full height, assessing Tod as he stood glaring up at the Grey. Eyes darting from Brielle to Tod, Lars’ face broke into a mocking grin.

“Brave for a Red, boy.”

Enraged, Tod dashed at the Grey, right arm cocked to deliver a blow.

Lars laughed loudly as he delivered a brutal right fist into the kit’s face.

Tod’s nose crumpled under the grey’s fist. Flung back several feet by the impact, the young Red landed on his back next to his mother.

“Or simply stupid,” Lars sneered, looking over his shoulder for approval from his fellow guard.

Glor, an older grey on duty with Lars, who remained laid on the tree stump, showed only a passing interest in Lars’’ scuffle, offering the junior guard a half-hearted smile.

Still partly-stunned, Brielle rolled Tod over that she might see her son’s face. Moving Tod’s hands from his nose, Brielle found her son bloodied; his eyes tear and hate-filled. The kit was furious, but he was also petrified.

Placing both of her hands on his cheeks, she told him, “Calm, Tod. Today’s not the day.” Observing him, Brielle watched the fire in his eyes dim slightly.

Rising to her feet, she rounded on Lars.

“He’s only ten years old, for maker’s sake!”

The same disdainful grin playing on his lips, Lars cocked his head, regarding the young downed Red.

“Big for a ten year old,” he noted with amusement. “Big enough square up to a Grey, he’s big enough to learn that it’s a bad idea,” he informed Brielle.

Moving his eyes down Brielle’s body, Lars cocked an eyebrow. His expression, playful, his eyes bottomless in their scorn.

“You darker Reds think that just because you resemble us, you can take liberties. Remember your place. You’re beneath us.”

Lars jutted his chin toward Tod. “Teach your kit some manners. Or I’ll do it for you.”

Waving her off with a hand, Lars turned away from the teacher, returning to his spot on the tree stump.

Staring after the Grey, Brielle took several moments to rein in her anger, before turning back to her son. Crouching on one knee, she helped Tod to sit up.

“Pinch your nose here,” she instructed him, placing his fingers at the correct spot. “It will clot in a few minutes

Brielle’s eyes flicked up to meet those of her eldest daughter. Well doneshe nodded, silently conveying her thanks to Chase for caring for the younger kits in her class.

Returning her attention to Tod, she helped the young Red to his feet.

“Steady….”

 

A chilling scream-bark broke into her intended words.

Lars and Glor shot to their feet. Noses sniffing at the gentle breeze, ears rotating to locate the direction of the scream.

“Pine martens, Lars” said, his voice low. Glor nodded once and both Greys tore up the bank of an oak, leaving the group of Reds alone in the clearing.

 

Instinctively, Brielle’s class of Reds gathered around her and Tod. Tod pinched harder at his nose with one hand, the other subconsciously, uselessly wiping at the blood on his chest fur.

 

Assisting Chase in gathering her class around her, Brielle whispered, “They smell the blood.”

 

 

Killing Mr Black – Preview (Shaping Dougie).

The following (unedited) excerpt is taken from Killing Mr Black and is copyright if Mark Wilson 2018:

Mary’s hands moved quickly and surely, feeding the material though her industrial sewing machine. Decades of experience guided them despite the ordinarily ubiquitous tremors, which all but vanished whilst she sewed. Dougie watched his wife as she worked, enjoying the peace and the certainty of purpose she clearly experienced during these moments.

From his vantage, Mary looked as though she was her whole self, her ‘real’ self as she worked. Her head tilted and bobbed and darted as she adjusted her loose grip and made quick alterations to the path of the material through the needle’s path. Dougie watched her snip part of the material free from the machine and smooth it out onto her work table that she may examine her progress. Dougie imagined her sharp eyes moving over the completed sections and her mind effortlessly calculating the next phase. Although he couldn’t see his wife’s face, experience told him that she would almost certainly be smiling broadly as she worked.

Regretful at having to break the moment, but aware that he must, Dougie stood up from the desk he’d been lean-sitting against.

“Mary-love?” He spoke gently as to not startle her in case she had forgotten he was in the room, such had been the peace of the moment.

Laying her dress-in-progress down, Mary Black turned sharply to lock eyes with her husband. Dougie’s heart wrenched at her expression. He had broken her concentration and the magical effect that sewing had on her. Smiling warmly at the woman he had loved for almost forty years, but now barely recognised, Dougie held his breath and voice, giving her time to process.

Mary’s eyes, wide with confusion, narrowed and then relaxed again as recognition dawned. “Oh,” she said smiling back at him finally. “I’d forgotten that you were here.”

Dougie bobbed a nod. “Yeah, I was trying to be quiet, let you work. Sorry if I scared you.”

Mary shook her head. “S’fine,” she said. Noting that Dougie’s jacket lay on the desk behind him, she asked, “You off out?”

“Yeah.”

“Work?”

“No, love. Just for a walk.”

Mary nodded.

Losing interest, she was already turning back to her task.

Dougie pulled his jacket on and walked over to place a hand on his wife’s shoulder. Leaning over, he planted a soft kiss on her cheek. Her hands already occupied at their task, her mind locked on the dress, Mary barely seemed to notice.

Dougie swallowed regret and headed to the door.

“I’ve left a sandwich n the fridge and there’s plenty tea in the pot,” he told the back of her head. An abrupt surge of guilt almost changed Dougie’s mind about leaving the house. He considered just staying in, perhaps watching the telly whilst she worked. His conscious prodded at him to tell Mary the truth about here he was going. His better judgment whispered that he should keep his secrets.

Making his way from Mary’s work room, out into the hall, Dougie pulled the front door open. Slipping out into the early evening, he whispered a half-hearted goodbye to Mary.

In the back-room, Mary Black’s hands busied themselves, expertly stitching, rotating and adjusting. Skills earned from thousands of hours of crafting garments allowed her to perform on auto-pilot, for the most part.

Hearing the front door close, Mary spoke over her shoulder to no-one, “Bye, Tom. Have fun.”

∞∞∞

An icy wind cut across the Meadows and Dougie pulled his hat down over his forehead as he continued his short walk from his and Mary’s apartment on Gillespie way to the building on Nightingale way where Karen lived.

Karen.

As always, the instant Karen’s name floated up to the surface of his thoughts, his heart lurched with the pain of lying to Mary about her.

Not lying, exactly, just not telling the truth.

Dougie pushed the false justification away. Not telling Mary was lying to her. He knew this and refused to hide from the wrongness of it. Dougie felt like punching himself. Instead he trudged across the meadows towards Karen’s apartment.

Despite the guilt and the pain he felt every time he sees her, Dougie’s time with Karen- never often enough despite how close their respective homes were- brought intense feelings of comfort and a rightness to his empty world.

Karen’s face floated up before his mind’s-eye.

Twenty-four years old. Still so very young.

The thought brought a sad smile to his lips. About the same age as Frankie at work, but so very different.

Dougie warmed himself with the thought of her as he sliced through the Edinburgh evening, shoulders hunched against the growing wind.

By the time he reached the tall, red double-doors of her building, Dougie’s thoughts were fixed completely on Karen and the short time they would have together before he had to return home.

Entering the building, Dougie smiled at the receptionist, who returned his greeting. As he didn’t recognise her, Dougie assumed she was knew.

“Who are you here for?” she asked pleasantly, regarding- almost assessing- him as she spoke.

“Karen,” he replied pleasantly.

“Ah, ok. I’ll buzz you up.”

Dougie Black thanked her and headed upstairs, heart pounding in anticipation.

Knocking, softly, Dougie pushed the door open a moment later to find the large living room warm and welcoming. Karen was seated in a high back chair, her back to the door. She didn’t turn to acknowledge his entrance. Dougie Black slipped inside, closing the door behind.

Approaching her from behind, he stands a foot away from the chair. “Hi, Karen,” he said softly.

Karen rose from her chair, turning to smile at her visitor. Dressed for indoors in black, she tilted her head as she smiled taking the few seconds she needed to recall his face and their history together. When she did smile, it lit up the room and Dougie’s heart both.

The Tanzanite Ring – A Valentine’s Horror Short.

The following story comes from Mark Wilson and Ryan Bracha’s Exquisite Corpse and is unedited. (Previously published as an advance peek on Mark Tilbury’s blog). Happy valentine

The Tanzanite Ring by Mark Wilson.

Paris, 2020

The high and muddy Seine slid beneath the bridge, hurriedly winding through the city; no care for its residents, its beautiful buildings nor an appreciation of a stunningly crisp winter evening. Sebastian checked the deep pocket in his overcoat for perhaps the seventh time in the last fifteen minutes.

The shape of the box within settled his nerves and caused his eager heart to skip a beat. Eleanor would be here any moment. Memories of their last visit to this spot together simmered to the surface warming Sebastian more thoroughly than the steam venting through the nearby grates.

He and Eleanor, in Paris. Walking the streets, loving the city. Right here on this very bridge they’d locked their love alongside hundreds of other metal declarations, giggling at the cheesiness of the act but brought closer somehow by it. As though a little padlock bought for two Euros from an opportunistic vendor, could deepen their love. But, somehow, it had.

Have three years really passed since last we had been in the city together?

So many other cities and countries explored together since.

Sebastian clutched at the box in his pocket once more as he scanned the padlocks and their messages to pass the time. A rough vibration from his phone shook Sebastian from his reverie. Checking the face, he confirmed the alarm he’d set.

Time to meet Eleanor by Notre Dame.

∞∞∞

I see her long before she notes my presence. Content to watch her for a few moments, I step back, cloaking myself in the deep shadows of a nearby statue. She’s right on time.

Eleanor.

Ten years we’ve had each other. A decade of travel, city to city, country to country. Each place we visit holds a significance known only to us. A special site where we’ve shared a moment together.

Where she’s given me her heart.

A few feet from the Trevi Fountain in Rome, huddled in a doorway where no prying eyes could penetrate.

Fleshmarket Close in Edinburgh. In my arms she descended the stairs with me, ducking into a secluded garden for a secret clinch.

Beneath the bridge at Camden Lock we indulged in perhaps the most intimate moment of my life.

The list goes on. Each moment a gift. Her time, her heart and her soul; given to me in a moment of purest connection etched for eternity into my memories.

Pride swells in me as I watch the familiar cadence and gait of her steps. She radiates goodness, this woman of mine. My heart beats so violently inside my chest I almost expect her to whip her head around to seek out and fix on the sound. Once again, my hand closes around the ring box in my pocket.

Inspiration flashes. I consider stepping out into the square to present her with the ring. Right here, right now. Removing the symbol of my unending love from my pocket, I rotate it a few turns, idly making a decision.

Recognising the rush of excitement for cheap impetuousness, I take a few deep breaths to compose myself.

Stick to the plan. Somewhere private, just for us.

Never one for making an exhibition of myself, I shove the box back into my pocket and step into the light to greet my love.

∞∞∞

One arm around Eleanor’s waist, the other pressed protectively…affectionately around her abdomen and curling round her hip, Sebastian led his love from the main square along the banks of the Seine. Eleanor shivered making the man who loves her pull her closer into his side. He kissed her on the cheek feeling the chill in her skin. He hoped his own body heat lessened her chill. Sebastian halted their brisk pace. Smiling at Eleanor, he removed his scarf with his left hand, keeping his right arm protectively around her waist to better share body heat. Looping his cashmere scarf around her slender neck, he asked, “Better?”

Eyes misting, she nodded her gratitude. They set off once again at a clip, crossing Pont Saint-Michel. Huddled in tight together against the nip of the wind, they walked along the Seine to Pont des Arts. Eleanor looked along the bridge to where the love-locks dangled, covering metres of the bridge’s railings.

Noting an older man at the half-way point of the bridge, she cut a sidelong look at Sebastian’s contented face, before jabbing a sharp elbow hard into her captor’s ribs. Sebastian was unhurt nor even moved by the blow. His response was to loop his left arm from around her back, up behind her head. His iron grip clenched her mouth and nose. Sebastian allowed a moment’s disappointment to show on his face. His sorrow was genuine but did little to alter his plans.

Sliding the short blade he held to her hip in deep enough to grate against the bone millimetres below- catching Eleanor’s scream in his leather-gloved hand, he moved his lips near to her ear.

“Oh Eleanor,” Sebastian whispered. “Why does it always have to end in an argument?”

Sebastian scanned along the length of the bridge, noting that the elderly man had not turned to look at the couple, and had continued along on his way, heedless of them.

Sebastian rotated the knife several millimetres, placing pressure on a nearby nerve cluster. Eleanor went limp as he withdrew the blade. With practiced swiftness he caught her before her knees bent.

“You will not ruin my plans for this evening, my dear.”

Scooping an arm under her armpit, Sebastian carried her off of the bridge as one might a drunken friend. Taking the stairs down the walkway to the river banks, Sebastian propped her against the wall, deep in the shadows.

Digging deep into his overcoat pocket, Sebastian retrieved a set of small keys and unlatched the padlock on a nearby shed. Tucked away under the bridge, the shed was used as a storehouse for seats and deckchairs, placed along the Seine banks during the summer months so that city workers mat enjoy the sunshine during their lunchbreak.

Nodding his approval at the preparations he’d made to the shed’s interior late that very afternoon, Sebastian retrieved his love, lifting her up onto this left shoulder, he entered the shed, pulling the door tightly closed behind them.

∞∞∞

“How many times do I have to say it?” She screams into my face. “I am not her!”

I shove the oily rag back into her mouth, securing it with heavy tape and storm away from her, barely stopping myself from punching the shed wall in my anger.

This won’t do at all.

Leaving the little shed, I stride the few steps to sit on the banks of the Seine, dangling my legs high over the dark waters. The frozen stone beneath is a sharp prompt to cool the heat in my veins.

Why must she always do this? Each and every time.

I breathe deliberately, allowing my stomach to expand as my diaphragm pulls and pushes, inhaling and expelling the chilled air. I feel my characteristic calm return and the stinging disappointment leave me as fog breath on the night air. Once more in control, I return to the shed, taking a kneeling position at her side.

Bound at wrists and ankles, propped against the shed wall, she glares up at me, unjust anger and fear taint her beautiful eyes.

She can see that I am calm once again and relaxes her shoulders a minute sag. She is very far from happy, but this little display of trust regained warms me. Slipping the box from my pocket, I creak open the hinged lid and slide the ring over her wedding finger. The light inside the shed, weak as it is, dances across the gemstone. Blues and purples and violets frolic and play across its surface and reflect onto her pupils.

“Will you do me this great honour?” I ask.

Her eyes are wide in shock. Tears flow freely along her cheeks and across her gag. She’s shaking with excitement.

Finally, the joyful reaction I was hoping for.

Fighting emotion, Eleanor nods her head, forcing a softness into her eyes absent until this moment.

I love you Eleanor. Thank you for coming back to me. To this place, once again to share yourself with me.”

The tears increase in pace as she accepts my love.

Gratefully I hold her to me for many long minutes until her sobbing ebbs.

She’s calming. Her body softens against mine, melting into my embrace.

It’s time.

Pushing gently away I hold Eleanor at arms-length, committing her loving expression to memory that I may revisit this moment at some point in future. Perhaps in the midst of rough times, or during one of her many absences. Eleanor notes the pure love I’m emitting for her and her eyes fill with hope.

I smile warmly, nodding an affirmation that she is correct in what she sees in my eyes.

Sending every particle of endless love through my eyes to hers, I close my gloved hands and tighten the vice they’ve become.

Eleanor’s eyes widen and then haemorrhage and then glaze over as I throttle every scrap of air from her airways. She accepts the coming death very quickly. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes she fights against it. It’s her choice, I am but a witness to her death throes. Watching the life dim and vanish from her eyes I force a final few ounces of pressure into my grip, compelling the cartilage in her windpipe to buckle and then splinter. Finally, releasing her, I cradle her gently to the plastic-covered floor and proceed to untie her bonds and remove the gag.

As Eleanor lies peacefully, I retrieve my work bag, stowed away earlier in the day at the rear of the shed.

I pour myself a cup of coffee from the little flask within and fish out the almond Croissant I bought from a charming little patisserie in Saint Germaine earlier that day.

Seated with my back up against the interior wall, legs straight out in front to act as a tray for my snack, I fill my stomach and warm my bones whilst I wait for gravity to have its way with her blood.

∞∞∞

Groggy awareness crept on him. Starting as he realised he’d fallen asleep, Sebastian checked his watch. Two hours had passed since he’d strangled Eleanor to death. Thanking no-one in particular that he hadn’t slept so very long, Sebastian rose to his feet before moving towards Eleanor’s prone body.

Crouching low, Sebastian lifted the side of Eleanor’s top, exposing her side which had become striped with a purplish hue towards her back where the blood had pooled and clotted. He pinched her fingertips, watching for any flow to blanch the area.

Certain that lividity had taken place, Sebastian removed her top completely, followed by her bra.

Smiling sadly, he placed a hand gently on Eleanor’s abdomen for a moment, feeling the coolness of her skin before retrieving his work bag once again. Producing a rolled piece of canvas, Sebastian unrolled the bundle parallel to the left of Eleanor’s body, exposing rows of very sharp blades and saws within. The final item pulled from the bag, Sebastian placed alongside Eleanor’s right side.

Seating himself in a straddle across her hips, Sebastian selected a small-bladed electric saw the size of a hand drill. Positioning its blade where her ribs and breastbone met, Sebastian activated the mechanism sawing smoothly from lower ribcage to clavicles.

Sebastian nodded at the neatness of his cut before placing the little saw onto the plastic around them. Reaching into the canvas bag, he selected a mechanism designed to open the chest cavity, placed it into the opening he’d made and began the process of rotating the wheel, watching with interest as her chest began to open, resembling a large toothy mouth.

Sebastian smiled at his practiced, smooth movement. Leaving the retractor in place, he selected a scalpel with which he cut through the pericardium sac, exposing Eleanor’s heart.

Over the next few minutes, Sebastian’s sure hands and clever fingers worked with accuracy and haste, disconnecting veins and arteries and removing connective tissue until Eleanor’s heart finally lifted free of its natural place. Checking his watch, Sebastian noted that he’d performed the removal one full minute more quickly than previously.

Pride widened his face into a smile.

Transferring the heart to the little clip-lock Tupperware box at Eleanor’s side, Sebastian, stripped himself naked, carefully folding his clothes onto a little box nearby. Working from neck to toes, and with the aid of two mirrors, he checked for and obvious scratches or tears in his skin. He’d been unaware of any opportunity for Eleanor to have taken a swipe at him, but experience had taught him to be prudent.

Discovering a very shallow scratch on his right forearm that hadn’t even broken the skin, Sebastian sighed at the additional tasks now required.  Selecting a Japanese chef’s knife, Sebastian began with the right thumb. Fearful of any trace DNA scratched from his skin being found underneath her fingernails, Sebastian removed each finger from the second joint, placing them in a thick hospital bio-waste bag which he would later incinerate. The Tanzanite ring he simply removed from the ragged end of her finger, placing it back into its case.

Sebastian folded his latex gloves from the wrist, turning them inside out and over the end of his fingers. Absent-mindedly, he dropped them into the open chest cavity then clipped the lid onto the boxy Tupperware.

Moving around the room, the killer carefully cleaned and packed away all of his tools, placed the Tupper-ware into a waiting ice-box, then set about the task of preparing Eleanor’s body for disposal.

His face took on a hint of disdain. He’d got what he came for and was done with her, but tasks remained to be done, regardless of any distaste he felt for them.

Blank-face and in auto-pilot, Sebastian placed some lead weights inside Eleanor’s chest before reversing the Retractor, closing and sewing her chest tight, and then wrapping her tightly in the plastic, secured by more tape.

Eventually, he slipped her cocooned body into the Seine, relief plain on his face.

One month later…

I chew on the last of the dried meat as intently as I chew on the decision in front of me. With my back resting against the newly-clean sandstone of the Opera national de Bordeaux, I feel the warmth trapped from the afternoon’s sunshine inside the stone, seep into my back, relieving a few knots that have developed there these last few days.

My eyes dart busily along and across Place de la Comedie, searching for her. As the notion that I may have missed her floats to the top of my thoughts, I abruptly catch her from the corner of my eye.

Dressed for the pleasant weather, Eleanor looks a vision. Her hair, brunette with a hint of auburn, as ever, is loose and swaying with the familiar rhythm of her walk. She looks relaxed, happy. My heart spills over with love for her. My hand strays to rest atop my little satchel. I can feel the shape of the box inside. Reassurance floods me as surely as courage does.

The power love holds surely is a wonder.

Bordeaux, so unfamiliar to us. We’ve never had a moment together in this city. Never explored our love or its streets here. Idly I fetch another strip of heart-jerky from my lunchbox, laid on the ground aside me. Tearing a piece off with my teeth, I watch Eleanor as she leaves the open area where people congregate on a summer’s day such as today.

It’s a fine place, to people watch, but inadequate for a marriage proposal. That will come later today in a more private part of this fine, beautiful city. Eleanor’s heart will once again be mine.

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. 

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.

Networking For Authors. 

Networking can be tricky for a writer, especially for Indies. Here’s my top tips on how not to be an asshole.

How to Network

Incorrect:

1) Email a writer you’ve never read telling them you love their work and asking them to read your book….cos it’s yours.

2) Just email a writer your book.

3) Add on FB or Twitter. Make no attempt at conversation. Post requests or links to your book or page on their timeline.

4) Propose a ‘read mine and I’ll read yours’ deal to someone you have no existing relationship with, especially if the genre they write in is not connected to the one you write in.

5) Propose a ‘review mine and I’ll review yours deal. (Reading said books not required).

6) Invest time in gathering reviews from other writers solely for cross-review purposes.

7) Asking other writers to proof or edit your work (hire an actual editor or proof-reader).

If you get constructive feedback you don’t like, say thank you and read it again a week later. Chances are you’ll find that some of the comments you’ve been given will improve your book in some way you hadn’t considered. When someone invests hours to give a good, honest critique of your work, you should be nothing but grateful that they valued it enough to do so.

I love your books

Correct:

1) Never network for the sake of sales.

Form relationships, have actual conversations. You might accidentally make a friend.

2) Never request that they read your book. If they ask after it, offer a free copy, no review requested.

3) Read books you genuinely think you’ll love. If you enjoy it, email the writer telling them so. Review it if you feel like it. Leave it to them whether they choose to respond or seek out your work.

4) Offer any skills you have to fellow writers for free. Expect nothing in return, do it to see others succeed and produce the best work they can. Success for one of us feeds into the collective.

5) Do not pester readers, but do pursue readers instead of other writers. Engage those you genuinely think will enjoy your work. Do this by placing your categories and keywords with some informed insight and by marketing in appropriate genre and forums and linking your book to similar titles. Give lots of copies away with only a gentle request for an honest review.

6) Occasionally construct a list of readers who have read works similar to yours. Email them a free copy stating that you’ve noticed they read X and think they’d enjoy yours also. Do not request a review.

7) Write. Lots. Produce a shit load of quality books that you’re proud of. More than anything this will increase your discoverability, assist your books in being linked to others that compliment and increase sales and aid in finding readers who care about your books. you’ll also encounter other, likeminded, writers who you can work and develop with.

8) Don’t be a needy, narcissistic sycophant.
Find Mark and his books at Amazon….Or don’t. He doesn’t give a fuck.

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

 

 

 

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

The following excerpt is unedited and taken from

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4)

Available to pre-order now at Amazon

Filtering out Dad’s scraping and clattering, I focus on the errant noise. The pattern of the sounds tells me one of The Ringed is nearby, probably in amongst the trees or shrubs and making its way towards our little picnic site.

Leaving dad to busy himself with the tea, I move quietly towards the source of the noise. Shoving a heavy branch from my path, I come across a female Ringed. Both of her legs are badly broken. She walks with the ankle of her right foot folded all wrong, so that her foot trails along behind. Her lower right leg is missing completely giving her a tilted gait. I let a sigh out and draw one of my knives.

Seemingly intent on moving her awkward limbs, she doesn’t notice me until I’m three feet from her. When she looks up at me, I gasp and take a step back.

She’s newly-risen. Aside from the damage to her legs, she’s in good condition. At a guess, I’d say she’s been dead less than a month. It’s not the condition of her, or that she’s so close that makes me start. It’s her appearance. She’s my age, has my hair colour, height and general build. She also has her right eye missing.

The girl’s lips snarl back to reveal a mouthful of gums. No teeth remain in her head. Stepping towards her, I shove her powerless arms aside before driving my heavy blade through her brain. The girl flops, adding to the detritus. Sprawled onto the forest floor, I get a clear look at her. She does look like me, very much like me. Unnerved I draw a second blade and press my back to a silver birch for cover. My eye catches a glint at her leg. Peering closer, I get low. It’s a knife worn exactly where I sheath my own.

I close my eyes lightly and concentrate on the sounds around me, like Joey taught me. Filtering out animals, birds, the wind and swaying branches, I pick out an altogether more human sound.

To my left, perhaps fifty feet from me, a light and familiar footstep disturbs some dry leaves.

The girl, the location, the macabre humour of her appearance…Suddenly the tableaux makes perfect sense. In his head anyway.

“You might as well come out, Bracha,” I try to sound bored.

A moment later he ghosts out of the shadows, lifting aside a low branch with his golf club. Leaning on the club, one leg crossed over the other, he smiles broadly at me. “So wonderful to see you, Stephanie my dear.”

A soft kick to the dead Ringed girl’s shoulder, “I do wish you had played a little more nicely with my friend, though. It took me an age to find her.”

I make a deliberate show of re-sheathing my blade and taking a relaxed stance. Despite his jester’s demeanour, His eyes note every move I make. Nodding at the dead girl, I ask. “Why?”

His expression shifts to one of deep sincerity. “I missed you, Stephany,” He says. The bastard is telling the truth. He selected this girl, took an eye and dressed her as me so that he had someone to talk to…no. So that he had me to talk to. Had he really grown so used to having me around?

His eyebrows lift in faux nonchalance. “She was a lot less trouble than you, though, Stephanie. Although… you do have a certain way with you.” The shark grin returns.

“You know I’m here to kill you?” I ask flatly.

He lifts his club and performs a little flurry with it, twisting it around his fingers only to toss it overhead and catch it on his waiting foot. With a flick, he punts the club back into his waiting hand. Throughout his performance, my eyes watch his hands and feet for a hint of an aggressive twitch. The display is not a distraction. He’s simply happy to see me.

“Well of course, my darling. There’s no-one else I would rather dance with.”

Showing him a shark-smile of my own, I draw two of my knives.

“But…” He blurts, holding a hand out in front of him.

“As you’ve brought my dear friend Jimmy along on the trip, let’s say we have a civilised discussion before we engage in our dance. Get to know each other once again, maybe share a meal. I also have some interesting information to share with you and your little community.”

I’d forgotten the sharpness of his senses and his habit of scouting the area he’s in regularly. I rebuke myself silently at his mention of James and resolve to remember my lessons better in future, if I have a future.

Wondering how long Bracha has been watching us, I shake my head minutely. “No.”

Bracha sighs and leans back onto his club once again.

“Manners, Stephanie. What has happened to people’s manners in this city?” He looks at me expecting as response. I give him none.

A long resigned sigh comes from him. “Well, I suppose if you absolutely insist…” Allowing his golf club to thud to the ground, Bracha draws two of his favourite blades. His movements are much less smoothly executed than I’m used to. The cold and his injuries have shaved another portion of his speed and agility. My heart races as I realise that I’m faster than him now. I’m capable of a greater range of physical attacks also. I have a chance, so long as I don’t underestimate his decades of experience.

A wistful look replaces his predatory expression. Bracha nods at my Ringed doppelganger. “I can always make friends with you once again.” He crouches to the Ringed girl. Coating his knives in her blood and saliva he resumes his fighting stance.

“When you awaken.”

End of Excerpt

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is available to pre-order now at Amazon

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

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted Preview – Billy Boyd, The Eunuch

The scene that follows is an outtake and will most probably be fleshed out and added into the novel as a bonus story at the end of the main novel. The story takes place in an off-page scene from dEaDINBURGH: Vantage, during the scene where Joey leaves the Gardens to meet Alys on North Bridge and hunt Bracha at the Royal Infirmary.

Billy Boyd, the main character of the short, is my attempt to portray the effects that living in an all-female society that fears and hunts men would have on a young boy. Billy (the Eunuch) will feature heavily in book 4.

The following excerpt is  copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing. It is unedited and comes from the forthcoming dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4):

The Gardens

Edinburgh

2050

 

Billy creased his face, squinting against the low, cold Edinburgh sun hanging over princes Street, trying to determine if Joseph MacLeod was staring at him. He was. The worm in his guts writhed.

Men are supposed to be banished. What I went through…what I did to make sure I could stay here, and he….him, he just walks in, invited by Jennifer and her arrogant daughter. They’re even training him.

MacLeod waved down at him.

Arrogant bastard!

Returning his gaze to his hand-held plough, Billy Boyd shoved the wooden handle, driving the iron blades through the frosty earth beneath. Despite his height and having three years on the next oldest boy, Billy didn’t have the raw power of his younger peers. His muscular development and stamina had been stunted. Instead of being layered with firm muscle his chest was flat, skeletal really. His arms and legs and back hadn’t developed any real size or power with puberty. Facial hair hadn’t come. His voice sounded like a child’s… or a woman’s.

This is exactly what Billy had intended when he’d castrated himself at eleven years old. A simple elastic band and blade had prevented his pre-teen body from becoming what it might. Who wanted to be a man in a community that hated them enough to banish them?

Power, physical strength in the field would never be his, but he had other strengths, other talents, especially with plants and medicines.

Steven Campbell hissed at him. “Billy, quit that. We decided to ignore him.”

“Aye. I know.” Billy rasped.

I won’t ignore him forever though.

 

The seven lads of The Garden, ranging in age from wee Charlie Munnoch, aged ten, to William Boyd, aged sixteen, were a very quiet minority in their strict community. Each of them had been born inside The Garden’s fences, most of them after the banishment of the men. None of them had ever gone through its gates.

Men weren’t permitted to be Rangers.

Farmers, cooks, husbands, cleaners? Yes.

Rangers, no. Never.

They were treated as well as any other member of the community- at least that was the common perception- in reality, small things marked them out as different, as being watched. It was no secret that Jennifer Shephard, The Garden’s patriarch, hated men having driven them out some ten years previously. Whilst most of the women treated the boys with respect, Jennifer’s Rangers eyed them with suspicion.

Being in Jennifer’s presence was a storm of undisguised malice. Billy suspected that she’d happily have thrown the infant boys out of The Garden along with the men if she could have.  The boys were watched closely wherever they went. If a boy was alone with a girl, a Ranger or a parent would come sit nearby to keep an eye out.

Like watching a dog with your child.

Sometimes the boys were asked to leave if they were the only male present, so that the girls could relax. Most of the younger boys hadn’t noticed yet, but Billy and Steven had, and they resented it. They resented it more with each passing day, especially Billy, who’d taken such drastic measures to eliminate the threat of his maleness.

 

Billy watched Joseph MacLeod disappear effortlessly over the fence line onto Princes Street. Billy Boyd seethed that Joseph could leave The Gardens so easily. He swallowed a white hot lump of hate and drove his plough into the hard earth once more.

A crunch on the frost drew Billy’s attention. Lifting his chin, he watched Stephanie Kelly stomp her way across the lower fighting pit. She carried a bow she’d made from uPVC pipes in her right hand and wore a patch over her right eye socket and stoic expression that looked alien on her young face. Despite his mood, it startled him to see Steph this way.

Steph had been one of the few girls who’d remained his friend after he’d modified his body. She’d never once judged him and simply smiled, as she frequently did, whenever she saw him. People who are glad to see you were a rare thing for a boy from The Gardens. Steph had been a true friend and a comfort to him when he’d needed it most, simply by being decent to him, by making him laugh and by understanding how terrified he’d been of his approaching adulthood. She’d also defended him more than once from the taunts of other girls.

Tell some lies Eunochio.

Maybe they’ll grow back.

Idiots.

Cruel and heartless.

Females.

 

Billy watched his childhood friend crunch with purpose, bow in hand to the pit and sighed heavily to see her so joyless. So like him. The way he’d heard it, her cousin, Alys Shephard, had let some roaming madman hurt her. For Billy, it was yet another confirmation that the Shephards represented all that was wrong with his home.

End of Excerpt

Hunted-zom-cover

 dEaDINBURGH: Hunted is due for release on Kindle and Paperback on July 13th,2016. You can pre-order and  find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.