Can Two Wrongs Ever Make a Right?

The title question is the tag line for my most recent publication, You Belong To Me.
It’s got me thinking about cases in which people have tried to seek their own kind of justice for crimes committed against them, or someone they know. Trying to seek your own justice could be seen as trying to get revenge or to punish a wrong instead of using traditional forms of justice, such as the police.

There have many real life cases were people have planned and carried out their own form of justice. Consultant forensic psychologist, Dr Ruth Tully, explains…‘Many people who feel wronged in some way have thoughts of revenge, but most people don’t act these out. For those who cause serious harm, the need to “get back” at someone can be a powerful and personal motivator. The perceived need for revenge can magnify emotions so that the violence becomes gratuitous or sadistic, with the perpetrator more easily able to overlook victim distress. Revenge violence can be an act of emotional expression, or the perpetrator seeking to restore balance or justice to the world.’
Read more at https://www.lifedeathprizes.com/real-life-crime/shocking-revenge-crimes-from-around-the-world-40611#Lw6BGqI0tQrh1kag.99.

I also wondered what people’s opinion on the question was? Can two wrongs ever make a right? Yes or no? I asked members of some Facebook groups what they thought. Here are a few of their opinions:

Continue reading

Extract from You Belong To Me – part two

 

Today I’d like to continue sharing an extract from You Belong To Me. It continues on from part one. Again, I hope you enjoy it.

 

She trudged towards the door. She bent down and picked up the keys. Maybe if she did as he wanted, he might let her go. She’d read a case in a magazine once about a girl who’d been taken captive by a man in an underground bunker in the woods. Over time, she’d convinced him she was his friend. That she had feelings for him. He’d eventually trusted her enough to allow her certain freedoms. One day she’d escaped by persuading him to let her pick wild mushrooms for breakfast. The terrible level of abuse he’d subjected her to read like something out of a horror movie, but she’d outsmarted him in the end and lived to tell the tale.

She fumbled with the lock, hands shaking.

‘What the fuck are you playing at?’

Cassie wanted to turn around and throw the keys at him. Tell him to open his own door and let her go home. ‘I can’t get the key in.’

‘Don’t make me have to come over there and do it for you,’ he warned.

She finally pushed the key home and twisted it in the lock. The bar popped up. She removed it from the latch.

‘Go inside and wait by the bar.’

The place reeked of piss. She walked across broken glass, discarded wrappers and cigarette packets. She stood at the bar holding onto it for support. The mirrored glass behind the bar was smashed, displaying the optics in dozens of tiny reflections.

He took a torch from his combat trousers and shone the beam at her. ‘Don’t look so worried. Everything will be fine as long as you do as you’re told.’

Cassie wanted to tell him that her boyfriend would come looking for her if she wasn’t home soon. And her dad. Her brother. The whole town. But her tongue was glued to the roof of her mouth.

‘What’s your name?’

She shook her head, trying to stop her thoughts setting fire to her brain. He would rape her. Torture her. Kill her. This was all the worst stories she’d ever read about coming to life. The ones that scared the crap out of her on cold winter nights and made her feel grateful she had people around her who loved her.

‘What’s your name?’ He asked again, waving the torch as if trying to coax an answer with it. ‘I think we ought to get on first-name terms considering we’re going to be spending a long time together.’

‘I… want… to… go… home.’

‘And I want to be a millionaire, but you might as well want a mile as want an inch.’

Cassie forced herself to tell him her name.

He was silent for a short while as if savouring it. ‘That’s a strange name.’

‘It’s short for Cassandra.’

‘Makes you sound like a film star.’

She shrugged.

‘Mind if I call you Cass?’

You can call me what you like as long as you don’t hurt me. ‘I don’t care. I just want to go home.’

‘You are home. I know it needs fixing up a bit, and it’s a pain in the arse the electric’s off, but it’s all about making the most of what you’ve got, don’t you think?’

‘My mum will be worried about me.’

‘So you said. Now, put your bag on the floor and empty your pockets. I know how attached you girls can be to your mobile phones.’

Cassie dropped her bag on the floor. ‘I haven’t got anything in my pockets.’

‘Take your shorts off and put them on top of your bag.’

‘But—’

‘Now!’

Cassie peeled off her soaking wet shorts and kicked them towards the bag. The humiliation of standing almost naked in front of this vile man made her feel as if she was already dead.

‘I’ve got new clothes for you down in your room.’

‘I don’t want new clothes. I want to go home.’

He ignored her. ‘It’s only charity shop gear, but I ain’t exactly flush at the moment. Maybe when I’m better fixed I’ll get you something a bit more upmarket.’

Cassie stifled a sob. Coughed. Wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

He retrieved the padlock from the outside catch, closed the door and slid two bolts across the inside. ‘All safe and sound,’ he said, putting the lock in his hoodie pocket.

Cassie felt as if she’d just been locked inside a condemned cell. She clasped her hands in front of her crotch. ‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Because I can.’ He pointed the torch at a door to the left of the bar. ‘Off you go. Mind the steps on the way down, they’re a bit rickety.’

‘I’m claustrophobic,’ Cassie said. ‘Especially in the dark.’

‘It’s not dark. There’s some battery operated lights down there. Make sure you use them sparingly though. I’m not going into town for fresh batteries every five minutes. Your clothes are on top of the mattress.’

Cassie gawped at the door as if were the gateway to hell.

‘Get going. I’ve got things to do.’

Cassie trudged towards the door. She looked over her shoulder. Thought about making one last plea for him to let her go, but knew it was pointless. She would die in this stinking pub. And it was all Darren Clarke’s fault. If he hadn’t kissed that slag, they would be curled up on the sofa watching a film right now. Or making plans for what they would do after they’d finished college.

She didn’t know who she hated most–Darren or this vile man. She opened the door and walked down the cellar steps. Halfway down, the door slammed behind her and a key turned in the lock.

She reached the bottom of the steps. Only one light was on. It cast a dim glow across the cellar. Metal beer kegs lined one wall like a pub’s version of tombstones. A wine rack took up most of another wall. The floor was littered with debris. Broken bottles. Upturned crates. A mattress with a small pile of clothes scattered on top. Something scurried behind the beer kegs. Cassie didn’t need an overactive imagination to conjure up an image of rats. And spiders. And cockroaches.

She fell onto the filthy mattress and buried her head in the clothes. No one knew she was here. He could do exactly as he pleased. Her parents would probably call the cops as soon as it became clear she was missing. Ping a million questions at Darren. Go frantic with worry. And there was nothing they could do to help her.

Welcome to hell.

 

 

I hope that you’ve enjoyed these extracts and will enjoy reading the rest of the book.

You can also see what early ARC reviewers have thought of the book, and add it to your TBR over on Goodreads.

You can now pre-order your copy of You Belong To Me from Amazon for 99p or 99c.

 

Thank you for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Mark.

Extract from You Belong To Me – part one

 

Today I’d like to share an extract from You Belong to Me. The book is being published by Bloodhound Books on 4th February and will be available to pre order from 28th January.

 

Cassie usually walked home through town and along St George’s Road. It was a practice born of her mother’s frequent warnings not to go anywhere isolated on her own. But the track was familiar. The school used it as a route for cross-country runs, and it didn’t seem very threatening in daylight.

With the rain driving into her face and rendering her glasses useless, she didn’t notice the man standing under the back porch of the pub watching her. There was little point removing her spectacles because the world just existed in a series of fuzzy ill-defined blobs without them.

Cassie’s mind hopped from wanting to kill herself to wanting to kill Darren. How could he even consider going near a slag like Hailey Connor? And she was a year older than him. Not to mention ugly as sin beneath that barrier of war paint she always slapped on her face. Why were boys such weak pathetic creatures? One smile and they were anyone’s.

How could she have been stupid enough to think Darren loved her for who she was? Didn’t care about the bump in her nose, or the gap in her front teeth. Didn’t give a hoot she had a slight lisp when she talked too fast. Darren had seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to most boys. Now, it turned out he was worse than all of them. He’d taken her heart and thrown it in a muddy ditch.

So, you’re just going to throw your whole life away over one stupid boy? A voice whispered in her head. He’s the one who ought to jump off the water tower.

Cassie stared at her trainers. White Nikes with a pink trim. The muddy lane had turned them as black as her mood. She wasn’t aware of the man stepping out of the porch and onto the track. He was maybe twenty yards behind her, dressed in a dark-blue hoodie, combat trousers and black trainers. Hands thrust in his jacket pockets. Face like a slice of moon beneath the dark hood.

The track was about a mile long. It was a dried up brook, but heavy rainfall could rapidly restore it to its former glory. It ran from the river to the back of the park, and from there it was just a short walk along St George’s Road to her house.

The rain had slowed to little more than a light drizzle by the time she was halfway along the track. She stopped and swatted at something buzzing around her head. The man stopped and stood as still as the trees lining the trail.

Cassie checked her airspace for more invaders. Birds and butterflies aside, she hated anything that flew. A wasp had stung her in the garden when she was twelve, and the experience had left her with a pathological hatred of airborne invaders.

As her tears subsided to an occasional sniffle, she opened her bag and took out a packet of tissues. She plucked three from the plastic wrapper, blew her nose and wiped her face. She dropped the tissues back in her bag and snapped it shut. She threw the strap over her shoulder and started walking again.

Why did her mother have to choose this week of all weeks to take a holiday? Now, she would face a salvo of questions the minute she stepped through the door. And it was no good thinking she could make it upstairs without being spotted; her mother had an inbuilt radar fine-tuned to Cassie. Both emotional and physical.

What does it matter what she says if you’re going to kill yourself?

Cassie ignored the voice. She would have a shower and change her clothes before she did anything else–including leaping off the water tower.

The man gained a few yards on her. He kept his head down, as if fascinated by his trainers. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and then rubbed it on his trousers.

Cassie stopped to negotiate a fallen tree blocking her path. It wasn’t too big to clamber over, but awkward, greased with rainwater and moss. She noticed brambles had scrawled a bloody signature on her bare legs.

The man took his chance. He closed the gap in a matter of seconds like a lion moving in for the kill. Cassie had just got her leg over the trunk when he told her to keep still.

At first, she thought he was going to warn her that there was something dangerous lurking on the tree. A scorpion. Maybe even a rat. She turned her head round to see him standing a few feet away. She couldn’t make out his features beneath the hoodie. He was wearing mirrored sunglasses, and a beard obscured the bottom half of his face.

Cassie felt her stomach tighten. ‘What is it?’

He didn’t answer. He pulled a gun from the waistband of his combat trousers and pointed it at her chest. ‘I want you to come with me.’

Cassie legs lost all their strength. She thought about trying to scramble over the tree. Make a run for it. Only a few hundred yards to the park. If she wailed like a siren all the way, perhaps he would back off and give up.

Or shoot you.

‘Turn around slowly and face me.’

‘Why?’

‘Just do as I say.’

Cassie turned around, barely able to stand. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye. ‘Please don’t hurt me.’

‘I won’t–as long as you do as you’re told.’

‘My mum’s expecting me home.’

‘If you tell me where she lives, I’ll go round later and pay her visit. Tell her you’ve been held up.’

Why was this happening to her? She’d already had the shittiest day imaginable. ‘Please, I just want to go home.’

The man shook his head. ‘You can’t always get what you want. They ought to teach that in school to stop all that disappointment later. Now, walk past me and head off back towards the river. And don’t think about legging it. I ain’t seen no one outrun a bullet yet.’

‘My feet hurt.’

‘And so does my head. Now move!’

Cassie took a wide berth around him, eyes trained on the gun. He wasn’t as tall as Darren, and thin enough to suggest she might have stood a small chance of fighting him off under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. The gun seemed to wink at her in a shaft of emerging sunlight.

Cassie shuffled forward. There was a nightclub just before the bridge. The Millhouse. It boasted a beautiful riverside terrace. Maybe she could get someone’s attention if she screamed loud enough.

You might as well run, a voice whispered in her head. You’ve got nothing to lose. Better to get shot than to end up somewhere with him.

She could hear him behind her, breathing heavy, sniffing.

‘Where are we going?’ She asked again. ‘Please tell me?’

‘Home.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘You will.’

Cassie walked past her own footprints as she headed back towards the river. The ones made before the man had appeared out of nowhere and turned her heart to dust.

He told her to stop at a wooden gate leading to the pub garden.

Cassie glanced behind her. Stared at the gun.

‘Go through the gate.’

‘Why?’

‘You ask me one more question, and you won’t see tomorrow. You’re mine now. That’s all you need to know.’

She could see huge banners on the wall outside the Millhouse declaring the latest offering from Sky Sports. Someone walking along the wooden terrace which wrapped itself around the building to the riverside view at the front.

Do it, Cassie’s mind screamed. Run. For Christ’s  sake, run

But she could barely move. She stifled a sob as she walked into the overgrown garden. The place resembled a cross between a jungle and a tip. Overturned tables, two fridges and a sofa bleeding its stuffing nestled among the tall grass and brambles. Most of the fence surrounding the garden was leaning over and broken.

‘See that door over there?’

Cassie nodded. She felt as if she would throw up any minute.

He threw a bunch of keys at the door. ‘The silver one’s for the padlock. Open it.’

 

 

I hope you enjoyed reading the first part of the extract. Continue reading in part two.
If you did enjoy it and would like to add the book to your Goodreads TBR list, you can find You Belong To Me here.

You Belong To Me is now available to buy or download on Amazon.

Thank you for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Mark.

 

The Key to Death’s Door – First Chapter.

Today, I’d like to share the first chapter from The Key to Death’s Door. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Book Description:

If you could discover the murderous truth of a past life and seek justice in this one, would you?

Teenager Lee Hunter doesn’t have a choice when he nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light, Lee is sent back to relive the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically.

After recovering from his near death experience, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

Struggling against impossible odds, Lee and Charlie set out to bring this man to justice.

Will Lee be able to unlock the past and bring justice to the future?

The Key to Death’s Door is a story of sacrifice, friendship, loyalty and murder.

 

First Chapter:

The day before I died started off pretty much like any other. Up at seven. Breakfast. Ready for school. Just one slight difference: me and my best mate Charlie Finch had cooked up a plan to tell our parents we were sleeping at each other’s houses. Clear the way to spend the night fishing at a derelict boathouse along Feelham River.

With the boathouse side of the river largely overgrown, we’d decided to row across in my two-man inflatable dingy. The perfect adventure for a pair of losers trying to spice up their lives after the summer holidays. September should be banned. Whoever had the idea of inflicting double maths and history on kids ought to be thrown in jail for cruelty.

The plan of telling our parents that we were spending the night in a friend’s house should have been simple. The reality proved more difficult. After tea, as my mother was getting ready for her night shift at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, I took a deep breath and moved in for the kill.

‘Is it all right if I stay at Charlie’s tonight?’

‘Charlie who?’

She knew full well who Charlie was, but sarcasm at this point didn’t seem a wise idea.

‘Finch.’

‘I don’t trust that boy, Lee. He spits.’

My brain failed to make a connection. ‘Charlie’s all right.’

‘As for his father… don’t get me started on him.’

For once, I was in agreement. Daryl Finch made my guts wobble, even though he was in a wheelchair. ‘He’s—’

‘Don’t you dare say he’s all right. He’s not. And I’m not keen on you spending time at his house.’

‘It’s only for one night.’ I played my trump card. ‘And there’s no school tomorrow. It’s Saturday.’

‘I’m well aware of what day it is.’

‘Please, Mum. I don’t like staying on my own when you’re working nights.’ This wasn’t a lie. I hated being stuck indoors. It made me feel as if the walls were closing in. Even in winter I left the bedroom window open slightly.

‘Why don’t you watch a DVD?’

‘I don’t like films.’ The truth. I much preferred real-life adventures – if only I could ever manage to escape the house to have one!

‘What time do you plan on coming home in the morning? I’ll be in bed, so I don’t want you disturbing me.’

‘Around teatime. Me and Charlie are going fishing tomorrow.’

‘It’s been raining most of the week.’

‘It’s not now, though, is it?’

‘Don’t smart-mouth me, Lee Hunter. And stay away from the weir.’

‘Does that mean I can go?’

‘I want you to promise me you’ll behave.’

‘Scouts honour.’

‘Don’t act the fool with that Finch boy. Especially near water. He’s the size of a grown man.’

Not yet fourteen, and built like a nightclub bouncer, Charlie was designed to cause suspicion. He had the brain of a chicken and the heart of a lion. ‘We’re going fishing, Mum. You have to keep quiet, else you’ll scare the fish.’

She puckered her lips in the small mirror in the kitchen windowsill, inspected something on the side of her face, then turned to me. ‘I want you to call me in the morning and let me know you’re all right.’

‘Okay.’

‘Have you got any credit on your phone?’

‘Yes.’

She took her handbag off the back of a chair and fished a fiver out of her purse. ‘For lunch tomorrow.’

‘I don’t want—’

‘Behave.’ She thrust the money in my hand, touched my cheek, and disappeared out the back door.

Okay. Good start. Now all we had to do was get past Charlie’s parents, and we were home and dry. Or wet, considering where we were going!

I put the dingy in a backpack and walked to Charlie’s house carrying my rod and keepnet in one hand, and a canvas holdall filled with the rest of my gear in the other. I left it all behind the garage at the end of his drive as planned, and knocked on the back door.

Charlie opened it and deposited a glob of spit on the concrete. He was dressed for the boathouse adventure in jeans, a baggy jumper, and a floppy hat more suited to summer.   ‘My old man wants a word with you.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he sucks dicks. Just stick to what we said, okay?’

Daryl Finch sat in a wheelchair near the front room window. His thinning grey hair was slicked back with grease. A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. He stroked his beard as if it were a beloved pet. ‘Charlie says he’s staying the night with you. Is that right, boy?’

The room reeked of cigarettes and stale piss. Thank God my mother couldn’t see him. Or smell him. I nodded, scared to speak unless I somehow revealed our guilty secret.

He squinted at me through a cloud of smoke. ‘You telling the truth? Or have you two hatched a plan to stay out all night?’

I suddenly believed he could see right inside my head. ‘No.’

‘I was your age once. I know what it’s like when you get a sniff of the girlies.’

Charlie rescued me. ‘We don’t even like girls.’

Finch turned to his son. ‘What’s that supposed to mean? You queer?’

‘No!’

‘Got my first sniff of pussy when I was twelve. Can still smell it now if I close my eyes.’

I thought that might be difficult with the smoke billowing from the end of his fag.

‘I can smell bullshit,’ Charlie whispered.

Finch squinted at him. ‘You got something to say, boy?’

Charlie shook his head. ‘We’re gonna watch a movie.’

‘What movie?’

Charlie hesitated. He looked at me. I wished to Christ he’d think of his own answers.       ‘Batman,’ I blurted.

‘Porn, more like,’ Finch senior said. He looked back at me. ‘Your old lady all right with this?’

‘Yes.’

‘You don’t look too sure.’

‘No… she’s fine.’

‘She managed to get off her high horse yet?’

I shuffled uneasily. I knew what he was talking about. Back in the summer, I’d been mooching about in a cupboard in the spare bedroom. It was a spillover wardrobe for my dad’s work clothes before he’d run off with another woman two years back. I’d searched through the jackets and coats looking for clues to his new life. I didn’t find a thing. But I’d stumbled across a fifty-pound note. To a fourteen-year-old loser like me, it seemed like I’d stumbled across a fortune, made all the more sweeter knowing it belonged to the bastard who’d abandoned us.

But it turned out my mother had put it in the jacket to save up for Christmas. I’d confessed straight away. I loved my mum. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. It was an honest and stupid mistake. I told her I’d treated three of my mates to a week of meals in the local café and the cinema. Skipped the cigarettes. After her initial anger and disappointment, she’d gone to the parents of the other three boys to demand they pay back their share of the spoils. Which they did. All except Daryl Finch, who’d wanted receipts and cast iron proof of his son’s involvement.

‘You can tell her from me she looks horny when she’s mad.’

Charlie’s mum walked into the room. ‘Who?’

Finch studied his wife for a few moments before saying, ‘Not you, and that’s a fact you can take to court.’

‘So?’ Charlie said. ‘Can I go?’

Susan Finch handed her husband a can of Foster’s[CV1] . Her grey hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Lines creased her forehead as if she was permanently frowning. ‘Go where?’

‘Boy wants to go to his mate’s to watch porn.’

Charlie sighed. ‘I just wanna stay over at Lee’s.’

Susan walked out of the room. ‘There’s no school tomorrow. I don’t see why not.’

Daryl Finch looked at me, eyes sly. ‘Your mum can stay over here if she wants to. Call it a swap.’

Susan closed the door to the kitchen. ‘I heard that.’

Finch grinned. ‘She still a nurse?’

I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to walk across the room and smash his stupid bloated face to a pulp. ‘Yes.’

‘Reckon she wants to take my temperature?’

‘I—’

‘Don’t listen to him,’ Charlie said. ‘He’s just winding you up.’

Finch removed the cigarette from his mouth and dropped it in a cup on a scarred oak coffee table. ‘Had me a nurse once. Pretty as a peach. Had some fucking rare nights with that one. Should’ve married her instead of that lump-of-frump through there.’

Charlie shuffled uneasily. ‘Don’t take no notice of him. He’s pissed.’

Finch belched. ‘I ain’t pissed. Just reminiscing.’

‘Fantasising, more like.’

Finch didn’t seem to hear him. ‘She was called Jessica. Posh or what? A good horse riding name, don’t you think? I used to imagine her in the saddle.’

Charlie gave me a look to suggest he wished his dad would do us all a favour and drop dead.

‘Met her when I lost my fucking finger.’ He held up his right hand to reveal the stump where his index finger used to point.

‘How did you lose your finger?’ I asked. I don’t know why I decided to offer something to the conversation.

‘Personal business, boy. Nothing that concerns you. Almost fucking died, I’ll tell you that much.’

‘Can I go now?’ Charlie said.

Finch nodded. ‘I ain’t gonna tell you to stay outta trouble, cos that’s like telling a dog not to bark. But be careful. Cops are always looking to nick lads for nothing. Trust me.’

I followed Charlie out the room and waited in the hall while he grabbed his bag and his fishing gear from the garage. He didn’t speak again until we were halfway to the river. ‘I hate that bastard.’

‘He’s all right,’ I lied.

‘He’s not. He’s the biggest cunt who ever lived.’

I thought my dad qualified for that title. I asked him if he knew how his dad had lost his finger.

‘Picking his fucking nose for all I care. He’s so full of shit. There was no nurse. Only in his head. No one with any sense would look twice at him.’

‘Your mum must have—’

‘She’s a doormat. Lets him walk all over her. I swear to God I’m gonna smack him in the gob when I’m older. Tip him out of that fucking wheelchair right into the path of a lorry.’

‘You don’t mean that.’

Charlie stopped. ‘I do. More than anything else in the world.’

‘Why’s he in a wheelchair?’

‘Because the lazy bastard reckons he’s disabled. But he ain’t. It’s only so he doesn’t have to work. Says his back’s fucked. But he’s soon up and out of it when he sets about Mum. Or when his drinking buddies come around to play poker. There’s nothing wrong with him. I sometimes feel like ringing up the job centre and dropping him in the shit.’

We walked the rest of the way to the river in silence. At least Charlie still had a dad. By the time we reached the spot opposite the old boathouse where we planned to cross, I was having second thoughts. The boathouse looked spooky under the darkening sky. The wooden gates beneath the building looked as if they might lead straight to hell. We hadn’t thought this through. We hadn’t even brought sleeping bags, for Christ’s sake. It would be freezing cold at night. And our plan to light a fire seemed suddenly daft and dangerous. What if it got out of control? Caught the place on fire?

I took my backpack off and dropped it on the ground. I put my rod, keepnet and holdall next to it. ‘You sure this is a good idea, Charlie?’

‘What? Fishing?’

I pointed at the boathouse. ‘Staying over there all night. What if we can’t find anything to make a fire?’

‘There’ll be plenty of shit lying about.’

‘Can’t make a fire out of shit; it’ll stink too much.’

‘Ha, ha, Hunter. Ain’t you the comedian of the century.’

‘What if someone sees the fire and calls the cops?’

‘Like who?’

‘River patrol.’

‘Don’t be a gusset all your life. This is Oxfordshire, not London. They don’t have patrols here.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Cos it’s hardly the drugs capital of the world, is it?’

‘Why don’t we just stay here and do some fishing?’

Charlie launched a gob full of spit at the river. ‘Because we agreed to go to the boathouse. Anyway, I’m not sitting on the riverbank all night freezing my nuts off. What the hell’s wrong with you?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Good. So unpack the dingy. You sound like my mum on one of her bad head days.’

Reluctantly, I took the Orange Explorer Pro 200 out of the backpack and attached the foot pump. The dingy had been a birthday present two summers back when my dad had still been at home playing happy families. To be honest, as much as I loathed him, it was my best present ever. It even had wooden oars and welded on oar locks.

It took about fifteen minutes to inflate. Charlie helped the effort no end by unzipping his fly and pissing into the river. I launched the dingy into the water and held it in place whilst Charlie loaded the gear. He climbed in and more or less filled the bloody thing on his own.

‘And how am I meant to fit?’

‘You can sit on my lap if you want?’

‘I’m not kidding, Charlie. There’s not enough room.’

He looked up at me, brown eyes almost obliterated by his long thick fringe. ‘I thought this was meant to be a laugh.’

‘I’m only—’

‘If we don’t hurry up and get a fire lit, it’ll be dark. Then you’ll be moaning you’re cold and can’t see.’

Against my better judgement, I squeezed in and rowed across for all I was worth. It was a good job the river was calm. At least there wasn’t much of an undercurrent to pull us off course. I didn’t want to consider what might happen if the weather changed – if we got trapped in the boathouse, or dragged towards the weir trying to get back across.

The boathouse looked far worse up close. The wooden gates beneath the building were rotten. So were the posts securing them. It all looked about as stable as Daryl Finch. There was a stone wall either side of the gates with rubber tyres fixed in place to act as buffers for larger boats. I rowed alongside and kept the dingy steady while Charlie tied the boat to a tyre.

He then hauled himself up the wall using the tyres as a makeshift ladder. He stood on the grassy bank, his hands resting on his hips. ‘Piece of piss.’

I handed the bags and fishing gear up to him. As if sensing my apprehension, distant thunder rolled across the brooding sky.

‘Is that your guts?’

I clambered up the wall and joined him. ‘I fucking hope not.’

A spiral fire escape ran up the side of the building. It had a metal roof shaped like a Chinese hat. Most of the green paint had peeled off, leaving the metal to rust and flake.

‘How are we going to get in if it’s locked up?’ I asked.

‘Smash a window.’

‘It’ll be cold enough without breaking a—’

‘Not if we stick something over the hole. Come on. We need to make ourselves at home before it gets dark. And get some fire wood. What did you bring to eat?’

My heart jolted. ‘Nothing. I brought the maggots.’

Charlie spat in the river. ‘I ain’t eating maggots.’

‘Very funny.’

‘Seriously, dick-brain, I thought you were gonna bring the food.’

‘Why me?’

Charlie laughed. ‘Cos my old man would skin me alive if I took food from the house.’

‘I’ve got a fiver.’

‘Brilliant. We’ll toast it and have it with the maggots.’

I felt like Robinson Crusoe. ‘Maybe we could eat a fish. Cook it over the fire.’

‘You ever tasted river fish?’

‘Nope.’

‘Tastes like shit. Someone brought my old man a pike once and he got my mum to cook it. I’d rather eat cat puke.’

‘You’ve eaten cat puke?’

‘All the time, Bozo. Delicious.’

A light drizzle started to fall. Great. Now we would end up wet, as well as hungry.

‘I’ve got some fags,’ Charlie said. ‘Nicked ’em off me mum.’

‘Won’t she notice?’

‘Yeah. But she’ll think it’s the old man. And she wouldn’t dare say nothing to him. I took her lighter, too, but they’re always losing lighters. I reckon there’s a gremlin in the house keeps nicking them when they’re asleep.’

‘Perhaps that’s who pinched your brain.’

He punched my arm. Hard enough to send shock waves along my shoulder. ‘Maybe that’s who nicked your bollocks.’

The rain came down harder, hitting the dirty brown river like silver pellets.

Charlie grabbed his bag, his fishing rod and the keepnet and walked up the fire escape. ‘Tell you what. You go back into town and get some grub, and I’ll build the love nest.’

‘What the fuck am I supposed to do with the boat when I get to the other side?’

‘Tie it up.’

‘What if someone pinches it?’

‘I’ll keep an eye on it.’

I grabbed the rest of the gear and joined him on the small veranda outside the wooden building. ‘How can you if you’re getting stuff for the fire?’

‘No one will nick the boat. No one even comes along this part of the river.’

‘We’re here, aren’t we?’

He didn’t answer that. He tried the door. Locked. ‘Don’t think much of the service around here. Could have given us a room key.’

‘Maybe we ought to just go home.’

‘Remind me to never go on holiday with you.’

‘Don’t worry. I won’t invite you.’

Charlie turned sideways and put his elbow through the single pane. Glass stuck to his jumper, glinting like jewels in the fading light. He lifted the catch and opened the window. The rain fell harder, bouncing of the small wooden veranda, drumming on the slate roof.

‘In you go, Gus, before we both get drenched.’

Built like a two-legged whippet, I climbed through feet first. Glass crunched beneath my shoes as I moved aside to let Charlie in. He wiped rain out of his eyes and passed our gear through to me. ‘Sweep the glass out of the way. I’ll come through headfirst.’

And so he did. Landing with a thud and hoisting himself up with a grace that belied his size. One of his hands was bleeding. Now what were we supposed to do? We had no food. No warmth. No bedding.

I should have taken that as a warning of what was to come.

 

If you’ve enjoyed reading the first chapter you can pre-order the book here on Amazon to be delivered to your kindle on publication day – 16th April.
You can also add it to your TBR list on Goodreads.

As always, thanks for your support.

Best wishes,

Mark.

 

 

The Liar’s Promise Prologue.

Today, I’m excited to share the prologue of my forth-coming release, The Liar’s Promise. It is now available to pre-order on Amazon and will be published 28th November. Here is the book blurb:

How does a mother protect her child from the unknown?

During a visit to a local theatre, four-year-old Chloe Hollis becomes hysterical. But her mother, Mel, doesn’t realise that this is just the beginning of the nightmare. In the coming weeks, Chloe talks of The Tall Man – Of death.

At her wits end, Mel confides in Charles Honeywell, the headmaster at the school where she works. But what Kim doesn’t know is that Charles is linked to what is happening to her daughter.

Will Mel learn the terrible truth? And can she overcome her own tragic past and save her daughter before it’s too late?

The Liar’s Promise is a story of past lives and future torment.

 

And, here is the prologue:

 

Peter King regarded the young woman handcuffed to the brass headboard with a mixture of contempt and anticipation. It was clear she lacked breeding, and her coarse tongue left a lot to be desired, but these matters were of little consequence. This wasn’t a young ladies’ finishing school; not unless you took the finishing part literally. Her name was Tanya, but she would be assigned a colour and a number for the rest of her days: Purple-six. Her predecessor, Purple-five, would be a hard act to follow. Impossible, even, but now was not the time to cry over spilt blood.

Purple-six was now at the mercy of several glasses of Chardonnay and four crushed sleeping tablets. Enough to fell an average horse, let alone a lame foal like Purple-six. It was almost ten hours since she’d fallen asleep at the dining table, head resting on a plate of leftover chicken sandwiches and sweet pickled onions.

King had abducted her from his usual stomping ground at Paddington Station. He’d almost been resigned to giving up after hours of fruitless watching and waiting when she’d stepped off an incoming train from Reading like an answered prayer. The first sign she was the right girl for him had been her obvious lack of direction. After several minutes wandering around in circles, she’d sat on a bench, hunched over, hands fidgeting with just about anything they could, well, get their hands on.

King had waited a while before approaching her. His fake beard was irritating his skin, and the padding around his midriff had slipped, but these minor inconveniences would be soon forgotten once he focussed on the task in hand. He adjusted his dark-grey trilby hat and sat down next to his prey, careful not to engage her in conversation too soon.

Purple-six helped things along by taking a tobacco tin from her blue coat and plugging a thin roll-up between her lips. He offered her a light with Yellow-one’s Zippo lighter. Yellow-one no longer smoked. Or breathed, for that matter. Continue reading