Hitman

The closer I ventured to the house, the darker the windows seemed to be – the lights hadn’t just been turned off, something else had filled the space left behind by the light.

I eased the front door open and closed it quietly behind me. I edged across the floor towards the stairs.

A dark shape appeared at the top of the staircase, making me jump out of my skin.

The hitman.

But there was no immediate attempt to kill me. Instead he turned and disappeared.

I hurried up the stairs after him.

He loomed in the room I’d been using as a study, his head nearly touching the ceiling. He grasped a manuscript in his gloved hand – one I hadn’t got around to working on yet.

“Where did you get this?” he growled.

“I found it on my desk,” I shrugged. “Like I always do. It came from him – the same as all the others.”

The hitman’s expression was grave.

“No. It didn’t.”

I stared at him dumbfounded.

“What do you mean – it didn’t,” I uttered.

“This didn’t come from him,” the hitman snapped. “Someone else broke in here and left it for you.”

“Why would they do that?” I blurted.

“I don’t know.” The hitman slammed the manuscript back on the desk, making papers and books spill onto the carpet. He gave me a murderous dark scowl. “There’s something about you they find special.”

“I haven’t found what the detective left,” I blurted.

“I know.” He strode out of the room. “Looks like you’re too important to kill – for now. You’d better get on with it.”

I studied the mystery manuscript. I scrolled through hours and days of security footage. I found nothing. No one could have got in, left the manuscript and got out again without us knowing. But someone did.

Gone

I lulled myself into a false sense of security. I’d convinced myself we were safe.

I lumbered downstairs for breakfast one morning – to find Six was gone. He’d left a go bag on the kitchen table with a note:

“Be ready.”

That was it. No explanation. No saying where he was going or when he was coming back – even if he was coming back. He was just gone.

It threw me. I saw in a daze for a few hours, then something fired up inside me and I got myself ready. Six had been the careful one – checking our security systems, scrolling through camera footage, occasionally patrolling the perimeter, which meant wandering out with a football at random times of day looking like a normal kid and seeing what he could find. But there’d been nothing.

The only strange thing that happened recently was the last time we’d driven into town, which we’d done a few times. He’d been kind of spaced out in the car. I’d turned the radio on and sung along to a few classic tunes and he’d sat there in a daze. Then, in town, he’d vanished suddenly, only to meet up with me back at the car. He never told me why or what he’d done.

Now this.

I’d gone out for the odd wander anyway, mainly to get some air and exercise, but I’d always been careful and kept my eyes open for anything unusual. But I had Six for backup. Now it was all down to me.

I went through everything he’d shown me, making sure all cameras and motion sensors were working, which I could do from the computer upstairs. I scrolled through the last few hours of security camera footage. It all seemed fine.

No. Wait. Something nagged at the back of my brain.

I checked it again.

No one appeared twice. Two kids kicking a football one time. A married couple strolling past. Apart from that it was the residents of the streets – and we’d identified them, their vehicles and any regular visitors ages ago.

I found it. One car passing by slowly – four times. You don’t just pass our house unless you have somewhere to go. It didn’t stop anywhere. Within minutes each time, it passed traffic and security cameras on a main street nearby, which Six had hacked into. Even pausing on the car and zooming in, there was no way of making out who was inside. I was pretty sure it slowed right down as it passed the house, but no one ever got out. I grabbed a pen and paper to make a note of the number plate – but it was spattered with mud – just enough to make reading it impossible.

“Do you know where Six is?” I texted Silas.

“No,” came the instant reply.

How do you tell if someone is lying on a text? Well, the answer was too quick and only one word. Silas knew more than I did. And there was no way of getting it out of him.

“I’m in more danger now he’s gone.”

“You’re fine.”

Another short answer. What the hell was going on?

That night, after checking and double-checking doors, windows and the security system, I headed out for a walk. I wandered along the road in front of the house, turned right down a pathway bordered by wooden fences, vaulted over one at the end to double back on myself, this time approaching the house from the wooded area behind the back garden.

No one around.

Then I saw something that made an icy chill shoot up my spine.

The windows of the house were dark. And I’d left the lights on.

Safe House

I’m a writer. I’m not built for this.

You’ve seen Lethal Weapon. The film, that is. Where Murtaugh says “I’m getting too old for this s###”?

Well, it’s like that. Only I was never young or ready enough in the first place. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be sitting on my arse writing about car chases and people getting shot and maimed and killed – it’s not supposed to happen to me.

But here I am, sitting in a safe house, which belongs to a twelve-year-old spy. Yep, a twelve year old spy – who carries a gun and who knows how many other weapons as well. I’m pretty sure he’s killed before. To look at us you’d think I was looking after him, but he’s the one protecting me and I’m really glad he’s on my side. But that’s only the start of it. I’ve been chased and shot at. I’ve been stalked, followed and attacked by people who have powers and abilities that belong in fantasy films, not in this bizarre, terrifyingly dangerous world I now find myself in. Strangest of all, I’ve written about all this – or I’m planning to. I really wish someone had told me the stuff I write is real and preferably before publishing. And that someone knows who he is and for some reason, is not responding to my demands to speak. I know he can hear me.

Still, I have some help. Silas, a faceless entity on the other end of a text or email who seems to be some reclusive genius who can do anything with a laptop and an internet connection has been pretty good as faceless allies go. The twelve year old spy is called Six – after the tattoo on his arm – the only name he knows. Then there’s the most unbelievable one. ShadowAspect – a man-sized three dimensional, tangible shadow, who once floored me when I tried to jump him, thinking he was going to attack me. That brings up a whole other layer of complications I won’t go into now.

We’ve been here in this safe house for a few weeks now. I’ve done some writing. I’m also supposed to be hunting down a stash of information hidden by a murdered detective. A hitman appeared in my hotel room and told me he’d kill me if I didn’t. But mostly, I’ve been sat here on the sofa, watching TV, catching up on loads of series and films I’ve missed and pretty much been unaware of thanks to being on the run for so long.

And it’s been GREAT.

Will he kill me, really? I’m a writer, not a detective. And it’s been so relaxing in front of the TV, I think it might be worth it if he does. At least I can get some rest. I’d eat more crisps and snacks, but Six, who is always switched on and ready for the next fight, won’t allow it. He insists I exercise as well. An exercise bike and weights arrived in the post. I go for walks sometimes. But the inside stuff I can do in front of the TV – watching the less compelling series that don’t demand either my full attention or cups of tea and the snacks I am allowed. I’m pretty sure Silas is in on it too.

I’ve spent so long tying myself in knots, dealing with this stuff, being a grownup who can handle anything and I’ve had enough. TV is GOOD!

The things I’ve seen still come back to me. I still write and go back to the case of the murdered detective, but I don’t have any new ideas. Deep down I know there is only one way we solve this – and that involves leaving this safe house and going after the answers ourselves.

Sometimes, staring at the screen, my mind drifts. I wonder what other stories are happening right now. I have some idea of how many there are – I’ve seen it.

Then I think back to that conversation between two men. Two dangerous, powerful men who both want me dead and have the resources to get it done.

Well, they haven’t yet. Looks like I’m safe staying here anyway.

Alliance of Enemies

The man at the table gazed at Hoyer with contempt.

“I know you Gromas love to linger behind the scenes where no one can see you and revel in your genetic superiority,” Hoyer said calmly. “But it makes you lazy and sloppy. I would take a well-trained ordinary, but talented human being any day of the week. You should spend more time in the real world, Mister Wolsingham.”

“You would not be in your position without people like us. I would hate to see you lose everything you have built by starting a war with me.”

Hoyer laughed.

“I would like to see you try. So far, your people have been as much use as your bartender’s little parlour trick. Our secret weapon in our war against Ciprian’s criminal cooperative failed in spectacular fashion.” Hoyer leaned forward. His jaw clenched. “And worst of all, your deficiencies and our defeat are soon to be made public – by a writer.”