Sitting Duck

We’d been found. The house wasn’t safe. Just sitting there, I felt like a sitting duck. I wished we had more cameras. By the time any attackers got to where the cameras were positioned, it was going to be too late for me anyway.

I pulled everything out of the go-bag and examined it all.

There was a map and a programmed SatNav showing the route to the address in North London I was to head to next. A set of instructions to destroy all the computers and hard drives upstairs. A bulletproof vest. A loaded Glock 17 with suppressor. Night vision goggles. Some smoke and flash bang grenades.

In my hands, most of it was an accident waiting to happen. Fat chance it was going to save my life in the face of a team of professional killers.

It occurred to me then that the person who left the manuscript had nothing to do with those coming to kill me. Funny. Right then, someone who had broken into the house without us knowing was the least of my problems.

I put some stuff in the boot of the car and got things ready for a quick getaway.

I paced.

I ate.

I peered through every window.

I watched the security cameras.

I had to see what was out there.

Leaving the lights on and making sure everything was locked, I slipped out the front door with the bulletproof vest on under my jacket and wandered along the same route as before – down the street running across the front of the house, down the narrow track, over the fence and into the woods behind the back garden.

In a way, I was probably safer outside, because the attackers would be drawn to the house.

I kept going, trudging through the trees, heading away from the house. I followed a well-trodden path I had used plenty of times before, where I knew I could walk quietly without a load of noise from cracking twigs and rustling leaves underfoot.

My skin prickled suddenly.

I stopped dead. I glanced around me – then darted behind the nearest tree.

My pulse hammered through my bones. My lungs wanted to gasp for breath. But I held it all in and breathed as quietly as I could. There was no sign of anyone about. But something felt wrong.

I’ve developed this sixth sense. I can feel when someone is watching me. Now I was experiencing something else – a sense of danger. My newfound ability was evolving.

I ventured forward, moving from tree to tree, stopping and looking around me before moving on – until my sense of danger throbbed through my skull like silent alarm.

The night vision glasses Six had left me were in my jacket pocket. The Glock 17 was shoved in my belt, pressing against my lower back. I put on the night vision goggles. I waited. I listened, straining to catch the slightest sound.

A twig cracked, making me jump out of my skin.

I ducked down to a crouching position and peered around the tree.

My eyes caught a movement at the far edge of my vision.

And another.

And another.

Then there were five figures moving in my direction, picking their way through the undergrowth and the trees. Three of them carried guns – not 9mm handguns like mine, but automatic assault rifles. Not a fair fight.

 

 

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.

endgame book cover

Endgame – Out now on paperback

Endgame is now available in paperback form. It’s a YA action thriller, the fourth title in the Mondial series. Here’s the synopsis:

What would you do if you were arrested for murder? Run from the police? Fight to prove your innocence? Take part in a deadly game to win a fortune?

The evidence says he did it. The police, his teachers and his friends think he’s a killer. When the chance comes, teenager Matt Tyler has a choice – face life in prison or run for it

On the run with no friends, no money and nowhere to go, Matt is cornered by a man calling himself the Bounty Hunter and issued a challenge: survive 48 hours with a rucksack on your back and the million pounds inside is yours.

Matt joins up with Teagan, who helps him search for answers and stay ahead of his pursuers. But she has her own criminal past and a real taste for danger. Can Matt stay alive long enough to prove he’s innocent?

To find Endgame on Amazon, click on the relevant link below.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Amazon India

Part Two of the story I’ve been serialising on my blog, the Diary of the Writer on the Run, begins again next week. To read Part One, totally free of course, click on the link.

The Diary of the Writer on the Run

 

Book Cover

jason ryback bullet point for blogI woke up slumped over my desk, my ribs pressed against the edge, my face on the keyboard of my laptop. I don’t remember falling asleep. I have no idea how long I slept or how long I had worked since I slept last.

Thinking back to what I remembered, I was coming to the conclusion that both books were pretty much ready, when I noticed something on my desk next to my laptop. It was a note.

“Check your computer.”

I found artwork for the front covers of both books – emailed to me from an account I couldn’t identify. All I knew for sure was that Sarasin Shade agreed with me. They’re ready. It’s nearly time to publish.

atticus book cover right dimensions for kindle (2) Final complete

“You work for me now.”

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I woke up with a start. I jumped.

ShadowAspect stood over me, still just a tangible black shadow. He pointed to my desk. The lamp was on, shining on what looked like a dense pile of paper.

I sat down, my heart pounding, my stomach turning with nerves. On top of the pile was another note.

“You work for me now.”

Underneath were two manuscripts. Under them was a set of instructions.

I didn’t bother going back to bed. I made myself some coffee and got started.

The Demand

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Of all the things he could have started with, why that one question? What does it mean? Is it the beginning of a conversation or a demand for specific information?

I sat at my desk and stared at the note for hours, struggling to come up with my next move or some kind of response, but I had nothing. I was late for work.

An evening spent staring at it produced nothing either. I didn’t bother staying up to wait for ShadowAspect. I fell asleep, assuming he would wake me if he wanted something.

It was late morning when I woke up. I suppose my lack of sleep in recent weeks is taking its toll. There was another note. This time it wasn’t a question, it was a demand.

“Tell me you want to be a writer.”

He Asked a Question

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He means me no harm. I also believe that the shadowy figure in my flat is just a messenger and not the one who has been watching me.

I still don’t know what he wants. But I have come to terms with the fact that he won’t leave me alone and plans to be around for a long time.

I tried to write, but I wasn’t happy with it. I gave up. I need to know what he wants with me.

ShadowAspect appeared again. He left another note written with quill and ink.

“You want to be a writer?”

He Came Back

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The second I woke up, I knew I had to get out of the flat, so I showered, got dressed and left as quickly as I could. I took a train, desperate to get as far away as possible, and found somewhere for breakfast. I wondered around, doing anything I could think of to wipe it all from my mind. But I had to go back eventually. And the intruder was all I could think of.

He appeared again. I was waiting, but I didn’t move once I saw him. I simply sat up in bed and watched.

After staring each other down for what felt like hours, he strode to my desk and produced a piece of paper. He left it there. Then he was gone. It was a simple note written in ink with a quill pen:

“His name is ShadowAspect.”

I’m not alone

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It happened again. I lay awake in bed for hours last night, staring into the darkness. I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel someone’s eyes on me. I turned over and over, trying to ignore it, but it was no use. I was sure I could sense a presence moving about in my flat. I wasn’t alone.