As it’s Christmas, I am giving away my new Christmas fantasy adventure for free! Download Henry Frey Versus the Dark Santa now.
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!
At night, when I finished writing, I turned off the lights and opened the curtain. I stared out into the night, waiting for my eyes to catch something, to spot someone lurking outside.
I did it every night.
I could tell Six had noticed. He didn’t say anything. He was only twelve, but an experienced spy and a killer. Of the two of us, he was the patient one. But I couldn’t help thinking he was becoming restless. That he wanted something to happen. He spent a lot of time pouring over the evidence Silas had left us. He’d studied the conversation ShadowAspect had overheard between two arch criminals. But he didn’t know who either man was.
He kept referring to the safehouse as “his” – but never revealed how a twelve-year-old could own a house. But then, Six was no ordinary twelve-year-old.
Night came again. I finished work, shut down my computer, turned off the lights and opened the curtain.
I realised I’d been looking forward to this portion of the evening. I was too comfortable to leave safety and run into more danger. But somehow, I was willing danger to come to me.
Then something happened.
I almost missed it.
I locked the front door behind me and stepped out into the cold night air, then ventured through the trees around the back of the house. I’d wandered through there so many times I could do it in the dark no problem at all.
Every slasher horror film I’d ever seen flashed before my mind’s eye – where some idiot gets a call or hears a noise outside or wonders where their mate Weenus went. Instead of waiting inside where it’s safe, they step outside the safety of their home to see if they can see anything, usually leaving the front door open for any psycho to creep in unseen. Every time I see one of these films, I always shout at the screen:
“Stay inside, you idiot.”
Then the idiot gets stabbed to death and their body is found in a pool of blood.
So here I was, creeping outside the safety of the house to see if I could see anyone.
My heart hammered. The blood roared through my ears. My head throbbed to the rhythm of my pounding pulse. I couldn’t work out if I was scared or excited.
I’m not as easy to creep up on as most normal human beings – not any more. Being followed and watched has made me hyper-vigilant – at least that’s what I call it. I can now feel when someone is watching me. It’s like an itch in the back of my head.
I felt nothing. So I kept going, trudging through the trees. There was enough light from the little town close by for me to just make out where I was going. The shapes off the trees all around me materialised in the darkness. They were all I could see, rising up either side of me, closing me in, more densely packed together the further I walked from the house.
I kept going, trudging through the trees. I had no idea if I was still on the route I usually took or not. Every square metre of forest looked exactly the same as the last.
My eyes caught a movement – somewhere ahead – across my eyeline from left to right. It was no more than a fleeting glimpse. But I took in enough to be sure it was human. And it wasn’t someone out for a stroll. They disappeared too quickly.
I picked up the pace.
Part of me wanted to run. To get there as soon as possible. To find whoever it was and work out what they were up to. To see a story unfold before my eyes.
The rest of me wondered what the hell I was doing out there and if I was finally losing my mind completely.
I fixed my gaze on the point ahead where I was sure I’d seen the dark figure vanish and brushed all other thoughts aside. In the darkness, it was almost impossible to gauge distance, but I reached the area I was aiming for, took a right turn to follow the dark shape and kept going. The fact I’d have trouble finding my way back now barely registered. I was on a mission and that was all that mattered.
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.