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.

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.

Henry Frey Versus the Dark Santa book cover

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Synopsis

Henry Frey smells danger when he spots an old enemy in a London toy store. Trouble is, Christmas is just days away, Britain is in chaos and he hasn’t heard from anyone in Alvahame in months. With no one else to help, Henry sets off to save Christmas alone.

A tall hooded figure in a sleigh led by eight reindeer lands in central London. But it’s not Santa Claus. And they’re not reindeer. Henry finds himself out of his depth against a powerful enemy who has been planning his attack on Alvahame for years and knows a lot about him. With his every weakness exposed and his new family in danger, will Henry’s friends from Alvahame be there to help?

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Happy Christmas to all my readers!

Temporary Safety

I was in no hurry to go anywhere after reading about ShadowAspect’s spying mission. Six agreed that staying still is a good tactic sometimes, so he sifted through the notes Silas had provided, looking for clues as to where retired detective Robert Gentry hid the file that everyone was hunting. Like it or not, we were in a race to find it first. Still, I took the chance to get some writing done. The view from some of the windows was the most inspiring I’d worked to in ages.

ShadowAspect had escaped the underground London café without being seen and visited a few other places that concerned Sarasin enough to send him. A couple have already appeared in books we’ve written, some haven’t. Seeing how many of them are on the brink of disaster or destruction, it was really more than I needed to know. I was in enough danger myself.

But I felt safe enough in our safehouse.

Little did we know, someone had already found us.

Mutual Threat

Wolsingham nodded to the bartender. A file rose in the air from behind the bar. It flew through the air and dropped on the table in front of Hoyer.

“What is this?” Hoyer asked – without touching it.

“A retired detective who was asking a lot of questions.”

“About your people or mine?”

“Mine. They took care of him before he could cause any lasting damage. But there are rumours.”

“Concerning.”

“A file of evidence that he collected before his death. It has never been found. It is said to contain proof of my organisation’s activities and an accurate assessment of our goals.” “This sounds like your problem,” Hoyer shrugged.

“If what I have heard is correct, it also contains evidence supporting his theory of an underground criminal organisation, which employs professionally trained teenagers.”

Silence.

Hoyer’s expression changed. He flicked through the file, then cleared his throat. “I’ll look into it.”

“You should,” Wolsingham stated. “Jason Rybak is. And you do not want him locating the file before you do.” He moved towards a door behind him, then turned. “You can tell your snipers and armed response unit to stand down. Not that they would have been much use here anyway.”

 

Suspected Existence

“Members of the security services are already beginning to suspect your existence and the work of your organisation,” Wolsingham said. He gave a sneering laugh. “Mondial. But they are unaware of mine and I need it to stay that way.”

“It is my understanding that there is a specialised agency dedicated to bringing you down.”

“Not for much longer,” Wolsingham replied. “As no one else knows about them, their demise won’t even make page 11 of the Evening Standard.” Wolsingham finished his tea, dabbed his mouth with a serviette and got to his feet. “I need the writer taken care of. In return, my people will provide assistance when you need it. I hope you gleaned everything you needed to with this visit.”

“I did,” Hoyer smiled. “And Jason Rybak will be dead before his first book charting the exploits of your people hits the internet.”

Me

I slammed my laptop shut and bowed over in my chair, trying to suppress the urge to vomit. Two of the most dangerous men in the world, never mind just the UK, and I was their next topic of discussion.

I took a deep breath and read on.

“Jason Rybak,” Wolsingham said. “The second people start taking the content of his work more seriously, we will both be in trouble.”

“I attempted to have him killed,” Hoyer replied. “As I know you did.”

Wolsingham scowled.

“But he has help,” Hoyer continued. “I know nothing about this helper. None of my people have even seen his face. But their accounts suggest he belongs more to your world than mine.”

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.”

An Impossible Skill

One man sitting at his own table sipped his tea without looking up, his eyes fixed on the book he was reading. But the new arrival knew he was watching every move made in the hidden café.

“Sit down, Mister Hoyer,” he said – without so much as a glance in the new arrival’s direction.

“Strange to see a man who spends his life hidden in plain sight is now just…hiding.”

“I like it here,” the man at the table replied. “It has a very exclusive feel. For most of the time, at least.”

The new arrival gave a flat, humourless smile. He sat at the table.

“The security cameras are an unusual touch for you.”

“I abhor technology, as you know. But it can have its uses.”

“I assumed you would have your waiters perform such a menial task.” The new arrival leaned back in his chair and looked towards the bar. He surveyed the barman. “I am picturing the drink I desire in my mind’s eye right now. Let’s see how long it takes to arrive.”

The barman stood where he was, arms folded. Behind him, a bottle of Opus One removed itself from the rack, opened and poured into a glass. The bottle put itself back. The glass floated smoothly over to the table and set itself down.

The new arrival applauded enthusiastically.

“The practical applications of what you people can do. Remarkable.”

The Hidden Venue

ShadowAspect melted through a couple of walls and emerged in a small electronics shop that had been closed hours ago. Heavy shutters hid what was happening inside.

The two men with guns lingered out of sight by the door. Their boss followed a woman dressed like a shop assistant to a door marked “Private”, then through a stockroom to a large bookcase covered in boxes set against the back wall.

Slinking behind them, ShadowAspect had already seen seven tiny security cameras. They had all been turned off – apart from the one in the bookcase.

The bookcase swung aside. They stepped inside and it shut behind them.

After waiting a few seconds, a heavy security door opened. The man made his way in alone and strode down a dimly lit corridor with impressionist paintings on the wall. Most were fake, but some were originals. The corridor opened out into a bright café with marble floor and walls.

A waiter with a Glock 17 strapped under his apron greeted him and showed him to a table under a rooflight. A glance around the room told the new arrival that everyone there was armed – in one way or another. And they were all watching him.