dEaDINBURGH Preview – Chapter 11

With dEaDINBURGH, book 1 now complete, feedback from the Beta-readers returned and re-writes finished, the book is with the editor. I’m unsure at this time as to whether dEaDINBURGH will be published through Paddy’s Daddy Publishing or another publisher as I’m currently speaking to some interested agents. Hopefully I can get the book out soon. This is the final excerpt I can preview before the books release. I’m hard at work on dEaDINBURGH Book 2 and a screenplay for Head Boy.

Hope you enjoy.

Mark Wilson

All text copyright Mark Wilson 2014

Chapter 11

Alys’ mother threw a flurry of sharp punches, alternating between head and gut, gut and chest. Blocking each of them, he used her slight forward momentum against her, rolling her punch, extending the reach of it further than she’d intended. It caused her front foot to slide forward an inch bringing her in to elbow strike range. It was a good move, she’d taught it to him and she grunted her approval as she slid the foot forward as he’d predicted, but continued further than he had expected to sweep him off his feet and onto his rear-end with a crash as he lunged to make the elbow connect.

“Up, Boy.” She’d already assumed her ready stance.

Joey gave her a lop-sided grin, mostly to annoy her.

“Nice move, Mrs Shep….” He almost saw the kick that connected with his chest that time. There was no doubt about it, he was getting faster. The training, her training, was paying off. He really had to stop antagonising her by referring to her as Mrs though.

“Up…Boy.” She said once again.

She’d never once called him by his name in the three months he’d been allowed to stay in The Gardens. She spat out the word Boy like an insult. It was an insult in this place.

Rising to his full height, which was still a few inches short of Jennifer’s, he gave her the smile again. To hell with it, he thought.

“Ready, Mrs Shephard.” This time he managed to block and deflect twelve of her blows before he was knocked on his ass once again. He could swear that Jennifer broke a smile that time.

“We’re done today, Boy. Go back to your quarters.” She swished around and took off towards another training session with one of the younger children. Good luck to them. He thought.

“Thank you.” He called after her. Normally she ignored his ritual thank you at the end of their sessions. This time, she paused, turned slightly and gave him the sharpest of nods before resuming her walk.

High praise indeed.

Joey plonked himself onto the frost-covered grass, sitting with his wrists resting on bent knees and scanned The Gardens as his breath fogged the evening air. The greenhouses on the flat sections were busy with girls, collecting tomatoes, peppers and other produce. He could see women working metal in the Smith’s tent, prepping meals in the kitchen tent, doing drills in the training rings and scribbling away in the school enclosure. The few boys who lived there, seven of them, each younger than he and sons of women who’d been pregnant or new mothers when the men left, the boys were dragging hand-ploughs through a large section of field. None of them had spoken to him. They’d leave if he approached them. When he’d arrived, Joey had expected the boys to be pleased to see another male; if anything they seemed frightened of him in a way that not even the youngest of the girls were. They simply went about their duties and acted as though he didn’t exist.

Everyone in The Gardens had a role, a place in the structure. Everyone was important and equal; more or less. The women of The Gardens were a truly self-sufficient society, dependant on no-one and nothing but their own hard work.

Joey climbed the slope up to the fence-line that divided The Gardens from Princes Street and scanned along the long, once-busy centre of the city. Jock had described to him the city before the plague hit many times using words like, beautiful, striking and cosmopolitan. When asked about the people, he’d often used the phrase, streets full of busy fools. The streets were still full, but instead of teeming with workers, residents, tourists and shoppers rushing around, they were filled with an endless myriad of walking corpses in various states of decomposition.

It was a quiet evening, relatively speaking. The ever-present groan that vibrated dryly with the bottomless hunger that these creatures suffered with, was a little more muted today. None of them bothered to take a swipe at him through the fence as he walked the perimeter, checking the fence’s integrity. Those who noticed him at all merely followed him along with their dusty, frost-covered eyes as he moved. It wasn’t apathy, they always got a little slower in the cold weather. As he made his way along the fence shaking rails, pulling on posts, Joey reflected on his time in The Gardens.

 

After Jennifer’s initial refusal to allow him entry, not when he was conscious at any rate, Alys had been able to convince her mother to grant him access because of his help in treating and saving Stephanie. They’d had to agree that they would not spend any of their time together and that Joey must participate in their way of life fully. He’d spoken to Alys only a handful of times since, the pair of them sneaking out into the surrounding streets to swap stories and share survival skills. Whilst Joey had the advantage in survival strategies due to his years in the north, Alys was by far the more superior combatant. In the short spells they’d spent together they’d made good use of every moment, each absorbing knowledge and skills from the other.

He thought that she was currently out of The Gardens on a supply run in Stockbridge. Combat training, farming and security now filled his days. In addition to this, Alys had sold her mother on the benefits of having access to Joey’s Intel on the world outside The Gardens and the immediate area that the Rangers patrolled inside the inner-fence.

Jennifer had sat with him for hours at a time, fascinated at what had happened to and was happening in areas of the city she’d known as a child or in the days before The Gardens was founded. Forefront in her questions was security. She wanted to know as much as he would relay about the people beyond The Garden’s inner-fence. That was easy; most of them, whilst damaged, were good people, trying to survive another day. There were exceptions of course, the most notable being Bracha.

Jennifer had found it hard to believe that he and Jock hadn’t had any prior encounters with the man. His actions in tracking them and killing Jock seemed entirely too motivated by personal reasons. Joey had just about convinced her that he was just another wandering madman, albeit a hugely dangerous one.

Whenever they’d spoken about Bracha, an odd look had crossed her face. She’d asked many questions about the way he fought, how he’d conducted himself. The language he used. Jennifer never really explained what she had on her mind where Bracha was concerned, but had told Joey that from his descriptions, she could tell that Bracha had been a soldier. I was married to a soldier. It had slipped in conversation but she’d noticed Joey’s eyes light up at the prospect of information on Alys father and immediately shut down, resuming questioning him on the city.

Jennifer didn’t seem worried about Bracha turning up at the Gates to The Gardens. He had to admit, why should she be? No one person, no matter how clever, skilled or deranged was a serious threat to the women of The Gardens. As for his assertion that a cure existed in the Royal Infirmary grounds, Jennifer treated the notion with the same ridicule that Jock had. Joey omitted Jock’s warning of Somna and The Exalted. He didn’t doubt Jock’s account for a second, but how did you sell that tale to a stranger?

Joey, of course, had shown her the flash-drive that Jock had kept for him. She’d described to him exactly what it did and explained that without a working computer there was simply no way to determine what its contents were. As she’s handed it back, an uncharacteristic softness entered her features and tone, clearly sensing how disappointed he was in his inability to access the link to his mother.

“I’m sure you’ll see what’s on it one day, Boy.” Her face hardened again as she handed him the device.

“On your travels.”

It had been a clear and none too subtle hint that it was time for him to move on. He couldn’t help but agree. Having roamed the city for three years, he’d enjoyed his time in The Gardens, had picked up and passed on many useful skills and rested well. It was, however, time to go.

After completing his duties and chores under the ever-watchful eye of Jennifer’s people, he slipped into the small tent they’d allowed him to claim during his stay. Only once in the three months he’d been here had he left the tent between lights-out and sun-up. As he’d become predictable, the night time guards had been removed weeks before. Tonight would be the second time.

Slipping silently over the rails onto Princes Street, he looked over his shoulder, down at The Gardens to check that no-one had seen him go. All clear.

Moving between the sluggish corpses on the main city thoroughfare proved simple enough with only a few of the more warmly-dressed ones reaching out to him or half-heartedly snapping their jaws shut when he passed. Taking Hanover Street, he headed downhill, along Dundas Street and down on to Brandon Terrace where he spotted the clock at the intersection Alys had told him to use as a marker. Turning onto Inverlieth Row, Joey spotted a faded maroon-coloured number 27 Bus parked, two wheels up on the pavement. Inside a warm glow flickered.

The area leading to the bus had been relatively free of Ringed but a few shambled towards the bus, driven by the slope downwards as much as they were by the glow of the firelight. Joey sighed, drew his knives, Jock’s knives, and silenced the pair before tapping gently on the bus’ door.

Alice smiled through the fogged glass and pulled a lever to open the doors for him. The heat hit his face as he stepped onto the stairs to board.

“Any problems getting out?” Alys asked, shoving the lever in the opposite direction as soon as he stepped through the doors.

“None.” He said.

Looking around the bus, Joey noted the fire in the space where disabled passengers once parked their wheelchairs. Jock had taught him what the little blue and white sign had meant in the old world. The disabled of course had been amongst the first to fall to the plague, for obvious reasons. In his entire life, Joey had met only one person in a wheelchair; a lady by the name of Suzanne Dalgliesh. At least that had been her name in the Old Edinburgh. Here in the dead city, she went by the name, Suzy Wheels.

Suzy Wheels occupied a bungalow on Groathill Avenue; she had since before the plague. With its modified ramps, access points and lack of stairs for shuffling feet at the ends of dead legs to climb, Suzy’s home should have been one of the first invaded. Anyone who’d ever met Suzy Wheels did not need to ask why that didn’t happen. A former Tai Kwando Olympian, Suzanne had been in a traumatic accident two years prior to the plague hitting and wrecked her spine as well as her car.

She’d fought her way through eighteen painful months of physiotherapy and another six months in the gym, sculpting her upper body, building the functional muscle she needed and perfecting the technique required to fight from her chair. That had been her goal, re-enter the next Olympics, Rio 2016; the Olympics, mind, not the Paralympics, she’d say, and kick asses from a seated position. Joey could fight, but he had no doubt at all that the sixty-year old invalid could kick his ass all day long from the comfort of her modified wheelchair.

Taking a seat across from Alys who had resumed her place at the other side of the little fire, Joey picked out a potato that had been baking in the fire and began picking at it.

END OF EXCERPT

You can find me and my books at Amazon, UK. Amazon, US and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

dEaDINBURGH – On Location and Chapter 12 Preview

Having spent a day shooting locations from the book with Paul McGuigan of PMCG Photography, it felt like a good time for another update.

At this point in the book, Alys and Joey have reunited after a three year absence. Alys has convinced Joey to enter a no man’s land in the South of the dead city, beyond the inner fences in search of a cure and a madman.

Lyrics from Unified Zombie Republic used with  permission of Gavin Bain
of Hopeless Heroic and Silibil-N-Brains

The following excerpt is from dEaDINBURGH by Mark Wilson and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:

Chapter 12

 

A sudden push against the bus sent it wobbling to one side. Alys and Joey both snatched their weapons up and stood to look through the misted windows.

“Didn’t you have a check around before you arrived?” she snapped at Joey more out of shock than genuine anger.

“Of course I did.” He said calmly.

Both turned their eyes back to the winnow, Alys stepping forward to rub some of the condensation away with the sleeve of her coat. She gasped as she looked out onto Canonmills. Joey pressed his cheek against hers to get a better look through the gap she’d made and let out a little sound of his own.

The bus was surrounded by Zoms. Every panel, front, sides and rear was being pushed upon by a herd of them, three deep in parts. Each of them was completely fixed on the bus, lips drawn back from snapping teeth.

“Where the hell did they come from?” Joey asked. “You ever see that many in one place?”

Alys shook her head.

“You?”

Not like that.” He replied. “They’re all pretty fresh.

By fresh he meant fast, vicious, dangerous, and of course, hungry.

There was little chance of them pushing the bus over; they simply didn’t have the strength or coordination for that, unless they got lucky. The greatest risk to them was that the hands that had begun to slap against the windows would eventually break the glass. Neither of them was particularly worried about a zom climbing through a broken window, the panels were too high for that, but the broken window would definitely mean exposure to the bitter winter wind howling louder than the Zoms groans outside.

“Upstairs.” Alys told him, leading the way to the top deck.

From the top they gained a better view of what they faced. Alys guessed maybe sixty Zoms, all fresh, had surrounded the bus. She rubbed her temples, thinking, what the hell brought so many of them here?

Canonmills was outside the inner fence, but only just; and generally was fairly clear of the dead. Those she had encountered recently in the area had been older ones, slow and part-frozen with the winter frost.

Glancing along the aisle of the bus towards Joey who had his face pressed against the rear window, she gave him a sharp whistle. When he turned, she pointed up at the ceiling, eliciting a conspirational grin from him, followed by a quick nod of approval.

Stepping on Joey’s interlocked hands, she boosted herself up towards the skylight, pushed it open and climbed through, out onto the snow-covered roof, before dangling her arm through to help Joey up.

“I’m cool.” He told her. As Alys withdrew her arm, Joey’s hands grabbed the skylight and his feet suddenly shot through followed by the rest of him, head last. He landed lightly on his feet in a crouch.

“Show off.” She shook her head at him. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”

She said, heading towards the edge to lean over. Her sudden presence above brought a surge of hungry groans from below.

“You think you can shoot them off? Maybe just clear a section for us to break through?”

Joey had a quick peek over.

“Na. Too few arrows; too many Zoms. How about we go back to the lower deck and just start braining them through the windows after they’ve broken through?”

Alys scowled.

“Too risky; too easy to get grabbed or bitten whilst reaching out.”

Joey’s face suddenly broke into a wide grin. Hooking his bow over his back, he went through his ritual of checking his weapons, tightening his laces and pulling his hood up, before cocking an eyebrow at her and flashing an even wider grin.

“Back in a minute, Alys.” He laughed and leaped from the bus’ roof onto the nearby bus shelter, from where he did a tight sideways somersault, landing on the roof of a phone box several feet away. With a final cartwheel-tuck, he span off the phone box, landing catlike two feet behind the row of Zoms who still faced the bus.

Launching into a song, he took off up the hill towards a burnt put Esso petrol station, Sixty-odd dead shuffling behind him like a grotesque parade.

“Searching for answers and finding more reasons, not to believe in the bullshit they feed us….” Joey sand loudly and out of tune, laughing as he ran, tumbled and span his way up the hill, away from the bus.

He’s entirely too full of himself, that boy, Alys thought, supressing a smile.

Returning a few minutes later, Joey had doubled back around the Zoms who were still headed up towards Rodney Street. Joey was walking towards her, arms wide in a what you think gesture. Alys shook her head, “Nice singing, Joey.”

He laughed loudly. “You like that? Jock taught me it.”

Joey launched into another verse, ducking as she threw a right-hander at him.

“Shut up, idiot. You’ll have them back down here.” She nodded up at the herd of Zoms. Some of the rear ones had lurched around and were looking in their direction, teeth bared.

“Okay. Let’s go tell your mother that we’re running away to find a cure at The Royal Infirmary, which is by the way, surrounded by murdering madmen who worship a Zommed-out footballer. That’ll be fun.”

Alys cocked an eyebrow at him. Deadpan she said. “Okay.”

End of Excerpt

On location in dEaDINBURGH

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon, US; Amazon, UK and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing.

You can follow Mark’s progress on dEaDINBURGH on twitter at dEaDINBURGHbook

dEaDINBURGH: Padre Jock’s Journal

20131214-115700.jpg

 

 

Rather than slow down the pace of the novel with backstory I chose to launch straight in to my main characters’ (Joey MacLeod and Alys Shephard) lives and insert little passages from Joey’s mentor’s Journal throughout the narrative. This is a sample giving details on how the city became quarantined. Hope you enjoy.

 

All text copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing 2013

<strong>Padre Jock’s Journal</strong>

In 1645 the bubonic plague (or the Black Death) raged through the populace. Millions had died worldwide and the city’s residents were beginning to feel the effects of the disease. In a desperate attempt to isolate the infected and to save the remaining residents, the council leaders forced the sick into the underground streets of Mary King’s Close and sealed them in. Beneath the cobbles of old Edinburgh the infected, begged to be released, suffered and were eventually forgotten, dying inside the crypts below.

The plague mutated underground for hundreds of years and some survivors became something other than human. Undead, shuffling through the dark crypts racked by a 400 year hunger.

On New Year’s Day 2015, the city leaders opened the Close, with the intention of erecting a memorial to the ancient plague victims and using the Close for tourism. The Close’ residents poured out from their tomb and spread the new plague through the city. Edinburgh was full of partygoers and New Year celebrants. The plague spread quickly.

Within a day, many of Edinburgh’s residents were infected. Within a week, the UK government, recruiting the armed forces had erected a huge and extensive fence around the circumference of the city bypass, quarantining the city. Edinburgh was declared an official no-man’s land; a dead zone, its residents left for dead and to the dead.

 

I had a chance to leave, before they sealed us in, but stayed to help the survivors. I never thought for a second that they, the world outside, would leave us here and forget about us. For that first decade of isolation, I always believed that sometime, they’d find a cure, that they would release us. I should have remembered my history.

 

<strong>End of Excerpt. </strong>

 

You can find Mark and his books at <a href=”http://www.paddysdaddypublishing.com/mark-wilson.html”>Paddy’s Daddy Publishing</a> or follow Mark’s progress on the dEaDINBURGH series on twitter @dEaDINBURGHbook <br /><br /><a href=”https://markwilsonbooks.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/20131214-115700.jpg”><img src=”https://markwilsonbooks.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/20131214-115700.jpg&#8221; alt=”20131214-115700.jpg” /></a>

dEaDINBURGH Preview – Meet Alys Shephard

The following excerpt is from Chapter 2 of the upcoming novel, dEaDINBURGH and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing 2013

20131206-183327.jpg

Chapter 2

 

Alys

 

Standing from a crouch Alys leaned back, stretching her vertebrae to their maximum extension. She gave a few sharp turns to her left and her right, loosening off her hips. Finally Alys leaned forward and down, wrapping her arms around the backs of her legs, bringing her forehead to her shins.

Jennifer sighed. “Every time, Alys? You won’t always have time for that nonsense you know.”

Alys was sick of her mother’s sharpness and performed the routine simply to provoke her. She was most accomplished fighter in her age group, and several classes above her also, but nothing ever seemed good enough.

“Just limbering up.” She said flatly.

Her mother pursed her lips. “Does an animal limber up? Do the dead limber up?”

Alys ignored her and took her ready-stance. Jennifer sighed and assumed her own ready-position. Alys stepped forward and delivered a series of sharp blows with her hands, alternating between her mother’s face and chest. Jennifer easily blocked each one, but she was supposed to, Alys had used the flurry as a cover for the kick she shot out at Jennifer’s knee. This too failed to connect as the older woman slipped her front foot back ten centimetres, causing Alys’ kick to jab into the ground. Jennifer steeped onto her daughter’s front foot, trapping it and preventing her daughter from stepping back from the vicious hammer punch she flashed out with lightning speed.

Standing over her prone daughter, Jennifer checked her watch. Five seconds, this time Alys. You’re getting better. Alys glared up her for a second before picking herself up out of the mud. She spat a mouthful of blood onto the ground a few centimetres from her mother’s feet. “Again.” She demanded.

Jennifer smiled her approval and moved in to deliver another lightning blow to her daughter’s face.

 

An hour later, Alys stood in the centre of the practice plot. Dripping with sweat and with the smell of her own blood in her nostrils, she glared at Jennifer, who stood calm and impassive as she’d been when their practice had begun.

“Again” Alys growled.

Jennifer approved, but showed nothing of that approval on her face.

“No.” she said, simply and walked away. As she left, she turned back to face her daughter. “Remember to take the offering up to The Brotherhood’s gates.

Alys didn’t reply, choosing instead to stand in the rain and let it cool her anger as it washed away the sweat and blood she’d shed. The rain and cold of an Edinburgh autumn was as familiar to her as the sunshine and relative warmth of its springtime. Her life had been lived, exposed; farming, fighting and living under canvas, here in the beauty of Princes Street Gardens.  Most of her community felt free. Free to farm and eat and train and live under the Edinburgh sky in the shade of the craggy castle. Alys just felt trapped.

The only way she could leave The Gardens permanently was to convince her mother that she was ready. That she could fight. Still standing in a ready-stance, fists quivering and face up towards the falling rain, Alys finally relaxed her bunched up muscles. Standing simply with her weary arms at her sides, something glinted and caught her eye. She looked up towards the Castle’s Esplanade, noting that he was there again. She’d never once been allowed to venture outside her community’s fences, the farthest she’d walked was to deliver the Communities’ offerings up to The Brotherhood’s Gates on the royal mile.

Alys couldn’t understand why her people continued to feed the reclusive, pathetic Brotherhood and had grown to resent the men who lived up on the royal mile. She’d been taught to fight, to earn her place in the community and to fight to keep it. Her community didn’t allow men in its gates, believing that their weakness was a risk, so why were they helping feed a group of men who were too deluded to grow or scavenge their own food? Yes she resented them but most of all she resented the boy with the bow.

 

The first time she’d seen the boy had been on a food-run up to The Brotherhood’s gates on Bank Street around five years ago. She’d been ten years old and had dutifully carried the container of fresh foods to the gates, traipsing sullenly alongside her mother. After Jennifer had placed the food at the fence-line, she’d turned and began making the short journey back to Princes Street Gardens. Out of curiosity, Alys stayed.

She’d never seen a member of The Brotherhood. She’d heard plenty of stories, of how they lived in their crypts, how they worshipped zoms, wandered among the dead creatures and even fed them their own blood; but hadn’t seen one. It wasn’t just their strange lifestyle that drew her, she hadn’t seen a male since her father had gone. She’d asked her mother many times in the early weeks following his departure, and several times in the intervening ten years or so, but always received the same reply from Jennifer.

“He’s just gone, Alys.”

So she waited, around the corner, peeking at the fences from behind the edge of a building. After a few hours, a boy had appeared. He was dressed in simple, slim-legged black denims, a long sleeve black T with his thumbs poking through holes at the ends of the sleeves, and a trash bag with holes cut for his arms to slip through. Over his head a hood concealed most of his face, but a few locks of very blonde hair strayed out from underneath. Warily he’d come close to the fence, opened the gate, and retrieved the offering. As quickly as he’d come, he left.

Alys couldn’t say why at the time, but she waited in that same spot a little longer until eventually the same boy appeared once more. He stood at the fence, staring at her. This time, he didn’t look nervous.

“Hello? Are you still there?”

Alys’ eyes opened wide at his greeting. She’d been taught that The Brotherhood wouldn’t or couldn’t speak. Guardedly she came out from her spot and approached the fence.

“Alright?” the boy had asked, with an awkward smile.

Alys simply nodded, narrowing her eyes as she noted the quiver on his back and the bow in his left hand. Realising that she felt threatened, the bow placed his bow on the ground, stood straight again and pulled down his hood to reveal a head full of shaggy blonde hair, and beautifully vibrant green eyes. He was around the same age as she was, that in itself was strange, she’d thought that The Brotherhood were all grown men. That he stood smiling at her with excitement in his eyes and a grin on his face, took her completely by surprise. She’d heard that as well as being silent, The Brothers were perpetually numbed by a substance they inhaled to commune with the dead. This boy was anything but numb. He had cocked his head to the side and was assessing her as she assessed him.

Approaching him, Alys asked

“What do you want?”

“To say thank you.” He nodded back towards where his people lived. “For the kindness.”

“If I had any choice I wouldn’t bring it.” She blurted out. “Your people don’t deserve it.”

The boy’s eyes lost a little of their sparkle and his smile flattened. Clearly hurt, he picked up his bow, raised his hood once more, and turned to head towards the Castle. After walking a few feet he turned to face her again.

“Well, Thanks anyway.”

With that he took off at a run, executing a few little leaps and somersaults using the masonry and steps of the local buildings as launch pads. Alys heard him laugh as he whirled and ran his way up to the Castle Esplanade.

She’d seen him many times since then; practicing with his bow, leaping and somersaulting through the Royal Mile and along the Castle buildings. She hated him for how care-free, how happy he seemed. He trained hard, that she was impressed by, he practiced with his bow every day, but why should he be so free, so happy, when her people, when she, had to work so hard to provide for him and his people?

She imagined him laughing with his Brothers at how gullible her community was for providing them with supplies. As time went on, she began to realise that the rest of The Brotherhood were as silent, as disconnected from the world as he people had described to her. This boy, the boy with the bow, was the exception. She hated him even more for his ability to free himself of the constraints of his community and trained all the harder, fuelled by contempt for him, by jealousy and in the hopes that she may one day discover a way to be as free as he was.

 

Alys lowered her head and looked at her trembling hands. She’d made contact with her mother twice during their session. It was twice more than she’d managed before, and whilst her blows hadn’t really had any impact, the mere fact that she’d landed them lifted her spirits. She was definitely getting better. Placing her arms around herself in a hug, Alys took a last look up at the Castle to see the bow with the bow, pulling another arrow from his quiver, lining up his shot and releasing yet another perfect arrow. The satisfaction she’d felt at her progress disappeared and she took off on a run up the Playfair Steps. The Brotherhood can wait for their free meal. I’ve got stamina to build.

Alys punished her legs running up and walking down the long staircase for the next sixty minutes. Hunched over on all fours at the top she looked along the mound and up to the castle. Another convulsion racked her and she threw up what bile she had left to throw up, and glared upwards, daring the bow with the bow to show his face.

Satisfied that she had nothing left, no reserve of energy with which to pull herself up the stairs once more, she made her way down the gentle swooping slope of The Mound, returning to Princes Street Gardens and the task of preparing The Brotherhood’s offering.

 

End of Excerpt

The dEaDINBURGH Trilogy by Mark Wilson will be published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in May/June 2014

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, at Amazon, US or at Amazon, UK

 

 

Five free books from the PDP Catalogue

Grab yourself five FREE kindle books from Paddy’s Daddy Publishing’s catalogue. On promotion from 20th November 2013 until the 22nd November 2013. We hope you enjoy the novels and consider leaving reviews once you’ve completed them.

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon Ca:

Amazon Au:

20131120-104042.jpg

20131120-104053.jpg

20131120-104102.jpg

20131120-104111.jpg

20131120-104121.jpg

20131120-104656.jpg

20131120-104703.jpg

20131120-104712.jpg

20131120-104723.jpg

20131120-104732.jpg

The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts, Review

Utterly compelling and quaintly contemporary

The Medea Complex is one of those stories. The ones you drag yourself along to the cinema to see after reconsidering because there was nothing else on, or read because you happened to have it and then discover how close you came to missing out on a truly unexpected wonder.

R.F. Roberts has hit the ground running with her debut novel. A veritable whirlwind of bewilderment, fear, edginess and the blackest of gallows humour. Roberts conveys the feelings, fears and amusement of her characters, the confusion, jealousy, love and ambition they feel and are driven by, expertly. Roberts gives the reader an uneasy feeling right from the first page and maintains that level of edginess and suspense throughout.

For a first-time author, Roberts is remarkably self-assured in her use of first-person narrative. Many debut authors resort to this narrative style for the sake of simplicity, Roberts merely brandishes it as a mechanisms with which to carry her readers along and amplify the eagerness of the reader to unfold the motives and consequences of her characters and their actions. Simply brilliant skill, and one that normally needs a book or two under the writer’s belt to use with this kind of confidence and effect.

Roberts has clearly done her research and despite historical fiction not really being my thing, I found this book utterly compelling and strangely contemporary in its quaintness.

For me this book fulfilled the promise that recent psychological thriller Before I go To Sleep by S.J. Watson failed to deliver. A truly creative and skilled debut novel.

The Medea Complex is available on Amazon UK and US

 

 

Head Boy by Mark Wilson Excerpt

The following excerpt is from Chapter 10 of Head Boy by Mark Wilson Copyright to M.Wilson2013

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

headBoy-final-cover

 

Chapter 10

A Useless Five-Percent-er

 

Stevie removed his leather bomber jacket and threw it onto the ram-raid post to his left. Bloody warm tonight.

Having to wrestle two deadbeats out of Angel’s hadn’t helped him in staying cool either.

“Haw, Monkey,” he bellowed.

One of Stevie’s co-workers, a temp who had been hired from Rock Steady for the night, looked up at him. When temps appeared to provide an extra pair of hands on busy nights, Stevie didn’t bother to learn their names, but gave them nicknames based on their face or mannerisms. In the last few months, he’d worked with Mongers, Budgie, Nicki Minaj, Posh Spice and Django. Tonight’s guy was a bit simian-looking so had been christened, Monkey. Around an hour into his shift, Monkey had given up trying to tell Stevie his name, figuring that it was less trouble to simply answer to his new moniker.

“Aye?” Monkey asked.

“I’m going to stretch my legs and have a cig. You take over here Monkey-Boy.”

Stevie loped off, lighting a Marlborough as he went. Hearing his colleague huffing, he tossed over his shoulder. “I’ll bring ye a nice banana back.”

Monkey jabbed his middle finger at Stevie’s back as he left.

 

Half an hour later, Stevie was in a dark corner on the perimeter of the Tunnock’s factory. Leaning back against the brick, Stevie inhaled deeply on a Marlborough and craned his neck back to stare up at the sky, trying to enjoy the moment. All of his senses were sharpened but not in a good way. His nerves were shredded, every sound irritated him. The cold scratchy bricks on his bare arse cheeks chafed and Linda’s teeth, rather than stoking his lust as they gently nibbled and dragged back and forth assisting her lips, well, they just hurt. His semi had all but wilted to a five percent insult of an erection despite Linda’s finest efforts to revive it.

“Stop, hen, just stop there,” Stevie told her.

“What’s the matter, Stevie?” Linda looked up at him.

“Och, I’ve a lot on my mind, hen.”

“We could try something else?” Linda took a step to the wall, braced both hands on the brickwork and rotated her pelvis, presenting her peach of an arse to Stevie.

Stevie laughed, causing her to self-consciously straighten and cover herself over with her coat.

“Don’t ye fancy me anymore?” she accused him, looking ten percent hurt, ninety percent pissed-off.

“Och, it’s not you, it’s me, Linda,” Stevie offered, standing pathetically covering himself while his trousers lay around his ankles.

Linda poked a finger in his face. “Did you just say that? To me?” she screamed at him, overdramatically.

“I didn’t mean it like that, hen. I’ve really not been right.” Stevie had his palms open in a submissive gesture.

“Aye, well,” Linda told him, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve not got time for this. Gies a phone when it’s working again.” She jabbed a finger down at his crotch and departed, wobbling away on her fantastic legs and too-high heels.

Stevie sighed and lit another Marlborough. Holding the cig in his mouth he tucked away his soggy wee pal and did up his trousers. He’d been struggling badly to focus since he’d met with Hondo the previous day. Hardly sleeping at all the previous night, Stevie had tossed and turned, trying to figure out who and what he’d become. Had he really promised Hondo that he would help with Davie Diller?

Since he’d left the force, Stevie’s life had gone to shit. He’d lost and thrown away everything good in his life. The job, the house, his wife, their daughter; in an eighteen-month spell he’d lost the lot. Looking back, it was clear that in the months following his medical retirement Stevie had been badly depressed and in the darkest depths of PTSD. That one split second when the knife had slid into his thigh had changed his life forever and continued to define his actions now.

 

**********

DS Miller had been standing bullshitting about football with the boy behind the desk in the Shell petrol station when the call came in. An informant of his had tipped him off a few days previously that a substantial deal was taking place in The Orb, and that Hondo would be there in person, holding product. The call informed him that the deal was on.

DS Miller contacted the station, looking for the DCI to get the go-ahead, but Dougie was still down at Wishaw General visiting that nephew of his, the laddie with leukaemia. That meant that it was the Sergeant’s call. Relaying orders for a few uniformed officers to liaise with him on Hamilton Road, DS Miller went directly there on foot. Accepting a stab-proof vest from the attending DC, DS Miller briefed each of the half dozen officers, instructing them to go for Hondo first and then arrest any stragglers.

Almost as soon as the team burst through the door of The Orb bar, DS Miller spotted Hondo holding court at the far end of the bar. Team-handed they dragged him and three of his cronies to the sticky floor, cuffed and searched him. Nothing.

Hondo laughed at them throughout. “Better luck next time,” the old man had sneered at DS Miller as he was released from the barely-on cuffs.

“Just wait the now,” Miller told his team.

Stepping outside, he radioed the station. Five minutes later the dog team arrived. The station dog, a massive German Shepard named Kaiser, sniffed from man to man, finding nothing. The handler proceeded to lead Kaiser around the pub whilst Hondo and his crew laughed to themselves. Suddenly the mutt had leapt over the bar and begun scratching and barking at the cellar door.

“If there’s nothing else Sergeant? “Hondo laughed and left the pub. DS Miller had no excuse to stop him leaving.

Opening the cellar door, Miller had shouted down into the darkness, “Up ye come.” Suddenly a man flashed through the open hatch. Bowie knife in hand, the suspect had plunged the eight-inch blade into Miller’s leg and ended his career in a spray of blood and violence.

When he’d still been on active duty, Stevie had scoffed at other officers who had succumbed to PTSD after an incident on duty. If they can’t cope wi’ the job, they should fuck off out of it had been his assertion.

Like most officers he’d worked with, Stevie had considered mental illness a preventable and controllable condition. Just cheer up. Just don’t think about it. Just work harder.

Now he knew better. Stevie had spent hours crying for no reason. He’d slept for days at a time, starved himself and ignored everyone. He’d tried to re-engage but couldn’t face the simple act of talking to another person. Hell, he couldn’t even look at his own wife without suffering a panic attack. His daughter had cried at him, begging him to pull himself together. Don’t you love us anymore, Dad? It had broken his heart. Inside he was screaming “Yes! Help me!’” Outside, he rolled over and went to sleep whilst his broken-hearted family packed their things and left him.

He drank and did drugs. He gambled, and then, finally, eventually, he faced the world again. The doc had given him pills that helped him to face people, but the guy who emerged through the black fog with a medicine cabinet full of anti-depressants at home and a bloodstream full of whiskey and Class-As wasn’t really Stevie Miller anymore. He just wore him like a suit.

Who he was now – no family, reeking of cigarettes, alcohol and bitterness – would have sickened DS Miller. But he was who he was. He didn’t know how to be his old self anymore. The guy who’d laughed freely with people, who’d spent all of his free time with his family. The guy who people knew would do what he said he would and could be relied upon to back you up. The husband, the father and the police officer were all long gone and all that remained, it seemed, was the piece of shit, alcoholic, coke-snorting doorman who’d sell out his best friend’s son for the favour of a petty local drug dealer.

The old DS Miller would have detested Stevie Miller, but not half as much as he hated himself. Just like his dick, he was about five percent of what he should be.

 

Fuck it. Stevie tossed the butt of his cigarette at the wall. Five percent’s better than fuck all. Hondo can go fuck himself. Young Davie was a bit of a player but that could be sorted. Davie had never hurt a soul. He didn’t deserve what was coming to him.

 

Stevie straightened himself and headed back to Angel’s to finish his shift.

 

Head Boy is available as a paperback and on kindle on Amazon US and UK

Tomorrow’s Chip Paper by Ryan Bracha – Review

Yet another Bracha book and yet more evidence that this is a writer to watch. Ryan is a perfect example of why the indie-publishing route is so valuable. A writer like Ryan needs time to experiment, express themselves and to develop. Traditionally, in the world of publishing (essentially the music biz with posh accents) predominantly only those projects deemed commercial or marketable rather than genuinely quality stories are given a whirl in the machine, with this sort of development time rarely being offered.

In Ryan’s debut, Strangers are Friends you haven’t killed yet, we saw a fearless and enthusiastic Bracha, publicly popping his writing cherry, making mistakes, taking chances and ultimately producing a flawed but utterly brilliant novel which whilst in need of a tighter flow, demonstrated creativity and characterisation of the sort that makes other writers up their game in response.

With Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, Bracha has become a much more skilled writer. Having lost none of the enthusiasm, imagination or his ability to effortlessly take risks that other writers would balk at, Ryan has produced a much more coherent novel and taken his skill to another level.

With each book he produces, Bracha develops this skill and constantly pushes himself to not only improve, but to continue producing some of the most imaginatively daring contemporary fiction on the shelf.
Like all the best authors, Bracha explores new ideas with each offering and refuses to constrain himself to one genre. Bracha’s golden goose is his capacity for originality and great characterisation as well as his talent for presenting those characters to us with all their flaws, without judgement, leaving it to the reader to determine their worth.

With the innate originality, vitality, humour and intelligence of his writing, Bracha is developing a varied and astonishing array of skills with which to present the complex, funny and engaging movies he clearly plays in his head.

Tomorrows Chip Paper, with writing tighter than a bulimic’s sphincter and the inventiveness of a college dorm panty-raider, is a massive step forward in Bracha’s development which left me anxious to discover what more this new force for originality is capable of producing.

I ploughed through this book in a day and a half and would recommend it to anyone who loves good storytelling.

You can find Ryan Bracha and his books here.

20131005-183126.jpg

Last Season’s Children: the debut novel that never was

The following excerpt comes from a book I started writing in 2009 and as yet haven’t been able to continue with. It was the first writing project I took on and would have been my debut novel if I hadn’t gotten distracted by four other books I had to write, and in all honesty, if I hadn’t been too scared and lacking in the technical skills to write it.

Last Season’s Children is Semi-Autobiographical but is a mostly fictional examination of how divorce and any subsequent marriages (for the kids or the parents) affects children. It’s a subject that has defined almost every aspect of my upbringing and early adult life.

Using the theme of seasons to represent the characters, in Last Season’s Children we follow siblings, Gus and July, every two years throughout their lives. The language used by the characters in each time period reflects their respective ages, education, situation, and mental state.

I will write the rest of this novel, but not yet: I hope you enjoy.

78319085

Last Season’s Children 

2000

                                    August is 3 years old.

                                    July is 5 years old.

 

August:

I’m in bed and it’s past my bed-time. I should be sleeping by now but I can hear the angry sounds coming up from downstairs again. Can’t sleep.

My room has Star Wars wall-paper and I’ve studied every inch of it. Obi-Wan has a blue Lightsaber and is fighting Dart Maul. I picked it ‘cos I love the film and I like counting the droids when I’m lying in bed. My big sister July took me to see it at the Vue Cinema in Hamilton. We go there on the number fourteen bus every Saturday. July’s friends come too and she never goes without me. July always shares her crisps with me.

July says that Mum and Dad are just talking loudly, but I know that they don’t like each other anymore. They still like me, though.

 

July is here, with me. She always is if I can’t sleep. She’s helping me play the flag game. July helps me sort out colours from downstairs into the flags of different countries. She knows lots of flags and I do too. It’s how we put away the angry colours coming up from Mum and Dad’s talking. We play this game a lot. July sees colours too. All sounds make colours for us. Some colours are really nice, like music we like or nice peoples’ voices. Others are a bit scary but July always knows how to make the colours quiet.

 

It’s Saturday tomorrow and we are going to the cinema again and then to our Gran’s. I love my Gran’s house, it’s fun. She has a budgie called Jackie who says bad words and she always makes sugary tablet for us. Gran always makes us laugh, she’s the funniest person we know.  She lives with my Granda, my Auntie Betty and my Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert has no teeth and eats sweets called Odd-Fellows all the time. Aunty Betty is very quiet. Me and July go to our Gran’s house almost every day.

Me and July are always doing things together; even when I just want to stay in my room July says” C’mon Gus, we’ve got a busy day!”

 

Our front door has just slammed. Dad has left again. I’m really sleepy….

 

————————————

July:

Daddy has just left. It sounded really bad downstairs this time, but at least Gus is sleeping now. I kiss him on the forhead, slide out of his bed and go downstairs. Sometimes I skite down the bannister, but I’m creeping this time in case Daddy’s still here. Mummy is crying again and turns away from me when I walk in. I stand beside her leg and tell her I came for a drink of milk. When Mummy turns round she has my milk and a smile but her eyes are very red. We hug and talk for a while and then I go back to my own bedroom. I love my bedroom. It’s next to Gus’s room and has lots of pictures of my whole family, my soft toys and my dolls-house.

Gus and I are going to Gran’s tomorrow. Gran always gives us a lot of cuddles, and tablet.  It’s always better to go there after there’s been a big fight at home. It’s even better if we can go to school the day after a big fight. School always makes me feel safe.

I’m going into primary 2 soon but would like it better if my class could stay with the same teacher. Mrs Cooke is nice and doesn’t mind if I’m a bit too tired to finish all my work in class. She knows I like to read and gives me books to take home. I always take good care of them and give them back after I have read them.

I brush my hair for a while and listen to make sure that Gus hasn’t woken up again. He’s been sleepwalking again and I like to get to him before he wakes up Daddy or Mummy. It sounds like he’s quiet for tonight, so I decide to read ‘til I’m sleepy again.

I’ve got a newspaper in my room, The Herald, and I read it for a little while before I go back to sleep. I have always liked watching and reading the news. The people use words I don’t hear very often and I like trying to use them.  I watched a report on the news yesterday about an earthquake, which is when your whole house shakes. For a few days there’s something the man on the news called ‘aftershocks’ too. Sometimes the people evacuate until it all settles down.

 

Sleepy now…

2002

 

                                    August is 5 years old.

                                    July is 7 years old.

 

August:

I’ve got chickenpox and I’m stuck in bed. I’m not allowed to go anywhere for another week, and I’m bored. I want to go to school ‘cos I miss playing with my friends at break, especially Jim Gallagher; he’s my best friend. We get into trouble together sometimes but always back each other up. One day an old man who lives round the back from Jim told us to come in for ice-cream. I said we weren’t going but Jim was desperate for ice-cream so we went in. The man smelled of pipe-smoke and cherry tobacco and he had a massive freezer in his living room, like the one in the corner shop. He told Jim that he wanted to show him something upstairs and ‘cos Jim was following him I said that I had a sore stomach and needed him to take me home so that Jim would leave with me too. I walked Jim home and then went home to my own house. My Dad went round to see the man to tell him not to ask us in again.

 

My teacher is nice at school. Mrs Cooke says that I’m as good a reader as July but I don’t like it. It’s boring and I prefer sports. I walk to school with Gillian Foster who lives 2 doors down from my house.  She always turns up at my door and says that she is my girlfriend but she’s not. I’m never having a girlfriend, all they do is make you argue with them. I like Gillian but she’s very loud and tries to kiss me all the time and she still uses stabilisers on her bike so she can’t keep up with me.

 

It’s Saturday and I should be at the Cinema in Hamilton to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’ve been so excited to see the new Harry Potter film. Everyone wants to be Harry in my class, but I like Ron Weasley better, he makes me laugh. July helped me make a Ron costume and I wore it last month to a birthday party and cast some spells on some ‘Slytherins’ that were there too.

On the way back from the party I was running through an alley July and I use for a short-cut. I fell over and my hand landed on a broken Buckie bottle. The green glass went into my palm and came out the other side. It was really sore. July took the glass out and took me to her friends’ house whose mum is a nurse. She gave me butterfly stitches and put a bandage on. It’s almost all better now but a have a big scar on my palm that looks like a big letter ‘J’. When-ever I see it I remember July pulling out the glass.

July is home with me today ‘cos she won’t go to the cinema if I can’t go with her. She’s helping mum to clean out the taxi. Mum drives a black taxi and works for a man called Peter McKenna at Maxi’s Taxis. She sometimes works at night-time when we are sleeping. Gran comes to sleep at our house if mum is working nights. Me and July go to a lady called Grace’s house after school and have our dinner there until mum comes home. Grace has a big fat ginger cat called Tiger. July always cuddles it but I’ve kicked it two times now ‘cos he scratches me and I don’t like him. Grace lives next door to a man called Donny Smith. My dad said I’ve not to talk to him and if Donny talks to me I’m supposed to tell my dad.

My dad has gone to Blackpool for a few days ‘cos he is fed up with my mum. July misses him and has phoned him three times this week, but I’m not bothered. We hardly see him when he’s home anyway so it doesn’t make much difference that he’s away.

I want to see my Gran today. She says we can go there because they have all had chickenpox before, except Uncle Robert. Gran says he will just have to stay in his room until we leave. I hope Gran has made some soup and some tablet for us.

I can see Alexander Goode playing in his garden next door. He still has a bandage on his wrist from when we were fighting two weeks ago. Alexander Goode is eight years old and much bigger than I am. Every day since I started school he has hit me on the way home. I don’t like fighting and July said I hadn’t to hit him back, so he continued to hit me for 6 weeks.

One day when he hit me I fell and tore the knee out of my school trousers. Dad saw them when I got home and I had to tell him what Alexander had done to me. Dad asked me why I hadn’t hit him back. I told him I was scared. Dad asked me who I’m more scared of, him or Alexander Goode. He told me if I didn’t go next door and batter him, that he would hit me hard for being a poof. Dad took me into the garden and kicked the fence to break it. He gave me a post and sent me next door.

I was really scared to hit Alexander but my dad fights all the time and I didn’t want him to hit me like I’d seen him hit some men. Dad has the biggest scar I’ve ever seen. It goes from under his belly-button, across his body and up to his neck. He said it’s mum’s fault he got it ‘cos she was talking to a man she shouldn’t have been.

I went next door and did what I was told. Alexander doesn’t talk to me anymore and stays out of my way. I feel bad but kind of like that the bigger boys let me hang around with them now.

I wish these chickenpox would go away…

——————————————-

 July:

I’ve been really busy at school recently, and at the dancing. I have hardly seen Gus ‘cos he’s been in the house ill for ages now. I miss walking to school with him and wee Gillian.  Mum and dad have been working lots and hardly speak to each other when they are in the house together. I miss my Daddy; he’s away just now. Gus doesn’t seem to mind but before he got ill he’d hardly been around either. I think he’s been hanging around with that big boy Tommy Stuart and his gang. I hope they don’t encourage him do stupid things. They are always in trouble with the police. Gus was sleep-walking again last night. He was talking too; about the colours from that day but he didn’t remember it in the morning. He is listening to music all the time just now cos he’s at home. That always makes his head busy at night and he lies in his bed sorting the colours instead of sleeping. Our cousin Davie Connell gives Gus all of his albums to listen to ‘cos he knows how much Gus loves them. I’m going to ask Gran later if dad will come home soon ‘cos I’m worried that he won’t…

 

End of Excerpt

You can find Mark Wilson and his books on Amazon US; Amazon, UK and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing

Head Boy – Chapter 5 Preview

The following excerpt is from Mark Wilson’s Novella, head Boy. Due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing on June 17th 2013:

All text copyright to Mark Wilson 2013

 

In this chapter, the main character’s friend and policeman father have a conversation.

Chapter 5

DCI Douglas Diller

 

Stevie, coffee in each hand and a bag of McMuffins under his arm, shouldered his way through the blue wooden doors into Bellshill police station straight into the path of a young, uniformed PC headed the other way.

“Fur fuck sake son!” Stevie hollered at the young copper as coffee scalded his hand, “that’s a coffee ye owe me.”

The PC showed a flash of anger before his training took over. “Sir, might I suggest a less aggressive tone when you’re addressing a police officer?”

Stevie cocked an eyebrow in amusement and annoyance. Mostly in annoyance. “Never mind yer pish, wee man. Get yer arse down tae McDs and get a large cappuccino for the gaffer.”

The PCs wee puffed-out chest deflated a little.

“Gaffer?”

“Aye,” Stevie nodded his head, indicating that he should turn around. “That coffee you just assaulted me with was destined for the hand of DCI Douglas Diller.”

Stevie gave the kid a moment to turn and acknowledge the appearance of his commanding officer.

“I’d go, PC Whitelaw, before ex-Detective Sergeant Miller sticks a boot up your lazy hole.”

PC Whitelaw nodded and made for the car keys behind the desk.

“Never mind, Bawbag,” Stevie conceded, “I’ll have half a cup. Dougie, here,” he offered the full cup to his former colleague, “you have mine.” Addressing Whitelaw once more Stevie growled, “Beat it, dick.”

Whitelaw looked very much like he wanted to retort, but kept his mouth shut and did as instructed.

“Still not any more fond of probationers, Stevie?” Dougie accepted the full cappuccino.

“I’m not overly fond of any of you pricks these days, Dougie. Where’d you find these wee fannies?” Stevie nodded at the door that Whitelaw had departed through. “He’s no’ a polis. Can you imagine a laddie like that in the force when we came through? Pffft.” He blew a whistle of disapproval through his teeth.

“It’s a different world, Stevie,” Douglas laughed. “PC Whitelaw has a degree in business and in fannying about with computers. That’s the future of the force right there. He’ll have my job in about ten years.”

Stevie grimaced, scanning Dougie’s face for a sign of humour. “Get tae fuck, Dougie. Yer joking?” he asked hopefully.

“’Fraid not, Stevie.” Douglas took a sip of his coffee and sat himself down behind the desk.

“Jeezus. One more reason to hate you pricks in blue I suppose.” Stevie wasn’t really joking, but Dougie laughed anyway to side-step any tension.

“How’s tricks then, Stevie?” Douglas asked as he inspected the contents of a sausage and egg McMuffin before deciding not to bother and chucking it back in the grease-marked bag.

“Aye, fine. Look, Dougie, I’m a night worker these days. It doesn’t suit me to be up and about before the lunchtime menu at McDonalds, so why don’t you just tell me what it is you’re wanting?”

Dougie leaned back in his seat, his smile fading. “It’s David. My David. I’m a wee bit worried about the company he’s keeping.”

Stevie filled his mouth with a gulp of coffee to avoid replying. He motioned for Dougie to continue “He’s always out, even on a school night. I know that he’s not a wean anymore, but he’s never in. I heard that he’s been hanging about up at Angel’s. You see him much?”

Stevie took a bite of his muffin and chewed over his reply along with the grease-slick ‘meat’. He hated lying to Dougie. Of all people, loyalty and history meant that he deserved better from Stevie, but Stevie didn’t subscribe to those ideals or live in Dougie’s world anymore. Neither did Davie, if he ever did. As he thought it, the wrap and the money from Dougie’s son felt heavier in his coat pocket.

“Look, Dougie. Davie’s in a few times a week, but he’s hanging about wi’ a good crowd. Folk wi’ money, they’re not scumbags. Actually, they’re the professional types. He’s no’ a big drinker and he doesn’t cause any bother. He’s just enjoying himself.” And making a fuckin’ fortune for himself and Big Hondo.

Dougie looked a little relieved for a second before his face hardened again.

“What is it Dougie, spit it out.”

Stevie was getting impatient. It was all right for Douglas sitting behind his cosy desk, and leaving for a nice comfortable house at dinner time. Stevie had a shift from six pm until three am, standing freezing his bollocks off outside and he was missing out on sleep.

“We had a young guy in here a couple of weeks back,” Dougie said. “Picked him up with a couple of grams of coke. Hondo’s coke, just cut a wee bit. Personal use, he said. He got a caution and sent home. On the way out the door, the desk sergeant overheard him worrying about repercussions and mentioning somebody called ‘Diller’.”

“So what?” interrupted Stevie. “It’s just some wee druggie worrying about the DCI Diller.”

Dougie shook his head. “Naw, Stevie. I’d never met the guy. I had no part in his arrest or processing. Do you think he was talking about Davie?”

“Don’t be daft. Davie doesn’t hang about wi’ folk like that. Look, Dougie, you’ve nothing to worry about with Davie Diller.” True. “That boy of yours is a grafter.” True. “Davie’s far too clever to get into trouble wi’ folk like this wee guy.” True. “As for Hondo, what the fuck would a smart guy like Davie be doing anywhere near someone like that?” Lie.

Dougie looked a little less worried than he had before. “Davie’s always had a wee element of danger about him, y’know?”

“Away tae fuck, Dougie. Just cos yer son likes a bit of risk doesn’t mean he’s out doing drugs and fuckin’ about wi’ folk like Hondo. The wee guy was just worrying that the station DCI would get involved. Davie’s got nothing to do with this. You know that.”

Dougie smiled warmly at Stevie. “Aye, you’re right enough. Even if he was the type, he works too hard to have time for that shite. Thanks, Stevie.”

“Nae bother DCI. Right, if you’re all done being a mother-hen, I’m off.”

Without waiting on a reply, Stevie headed for the door. As he approached the exit, PC Whitelaw re-entered with one of the station dogs dragging along behind. Catching scent of the coke wrapped tightly in Stevie’s inside jacket pocket, the wee spaniel went ape-shit, barking, yelping and pointing the metaphorical finger at Stevie.

“Seems that Muffin likes you, Ex-Detective Sergeant Miller,” PC Whitelaw scowled at Stevie.

“That dug’s as big a fuckin’ poof as you are, son.” Stevie barged past him and out the door.

Whitelaw started after Stevie. “I think you’d better come back here, sir.”

“Fuck off, goon,” Stevie replied without turning back.

Douglas walked around to the front door and pulled PC Whitelaw by the arm. “That dog needs more training, Whitelaw. His heid’s up his arse.”

Following the DCI back inside, PC Whitelaw looked unconvinced.

 

After a hundred yards or so, Stevie fished his iPhone from his pocket and scanned for Davie’s number. It was early, so he’d probably be on his way towards the school. As the ring tone started, he heard a phone ringing behind him and turned to see Davie ten feet away.

“Could’ve just shouted on me, Stevie,” Diller laughed.

“Aye, listen.” Stevie brushed off the humour. “Dougie’s been asking questions about your ‘night job’. Nothing serious but I’d make a point of meeting up with yer dad and laying on the charm.”

Diller’s eyes narrowed as he thought through the possibilities. “That boy Kenzo got picked up the other week. Did he open his mouth?”

Fuck, this boy is lethally quick thought Stevie. “Na, nothing deliberate, Davie, the desk-jockey that booked him overheard the name Diller mentioned when Kenzo was being released.”

Diller’s face was the coldest of steel. “Right. Thanks, Stevie. See you later, it’s time for school.

Stevie raked in the McDonalds bag for the last McMuffin, eyeing Davie’s back as he headed towards Bellshill Academy. Aye, Dougie, your boy’s far too clever to get himself in the shit he thought bitterly.

End of Excerpt

Mark’s other novels can be found now on Amazon

headBoy-final-cover