Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Sleep available at a rock bottom price.

It's not often I share the promotions I take part in on my blog - usually I share them on twitter or via my newsletter, but it's also not often I promote this book at such a low price.

I have joined 80+ authors over on Book Funnel, and taken part in the July Beach Reads promotion. All of the books are Women's Fiction and fall under family dramas - although genres vary within that.  

My novel, Sleep, a Psychological Thriller, is available for $.99/£.99 through this promotion for the entire month of July.


This is only the second time I've priced it this low, and it will be a while before I do it again, so snap it up while you can and feel free to pass it on to others.


<click on the book cover to go to the link>




Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 164

This week's photo prompt is from Horror writer Mark Cassell. I found the angle interesting.

He says: 'Location research snappoids (this really should be a word). I have a main character who runs from a cosmic nightmare on this very spot here in Dungeness.'

Dungeness is on the south coast of England (in Kent). 

I've gone dark with this story, because, afterall, Mark is a horror writer. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




Feed

It slithered over the edge of the boat it had been hiding in. It could see another boat nearby but knew it didn’t contain what it sought. It needed more than just the remains of the sea crustaceans in the old nets; it needed something warm, something living.

It crept up the beach toward the sound of voices. Daylight was dimming; it could stay invisible among the stones and get closer. They weren’t paying attention, too caught up in their argument. It edged round behind the woman.

‘But why do we always have to come here?’

‘For privacy, you know how my mum is.’

‘She doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.’

‘It’s not that. She’s just a little possessive that’s all.’

‘It’s peculiar if you ask me.’

‘That’s my mum you’re talking about ...’

‘So?’

‘She’s just looking out for me.’

‘So you agree with her, I’m not good enough for you?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘Sounds like it to me.’

‘Why? Cuz I won’t let you bash my mum?’

‘I’m not bashing her. I just think she needs to stop treating you as a little boy. You’re a grown man.’

‘She’s my mum; I’ll always be her little boy.’

‘She needs to get a life.’

‘Oi! That’s enough, alright?’

‘I just don’t know why we always have to come to the beach and freeze our arses off.’

‘Where else do you suggest we go? It’s not like your house is any better with your brother and your dad hanging around, making leery comments. And I don’t have the cash at the moment to be going to the cafe or the pub every time.’

‘If it’s so hard maybe we shouldn’t bother.’

‘Oh you want to break up now, do you?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

In the brief pause of awkwardness, it took the opportunity to get up close and personal. It slithered up the back of the woman, and she shivered.

‘What?’

‘Just suddenly feel cold up my back, that’s all.’

‘Come closer then, and I’ll get you warm.’

They huddled up together, the man putting his arms round the woman. She moved her head in close. Then they looked at each other and made contact with their mouths, perfect for its intention.

It moved up round the woman’s neck, enjoying the sudden heat that had taken over her body, and latched onto the vein throbbing on the side of her neck, drinking deep until it merged with her.

The man cried out and pulled is face off the woman’s, his hand trying to stem the flow of blood coming from his mouth. He tried to speak but couldn’t form his words properly.

‘wah ooo ooo at foor, my ung!’

The woman grinned, then lunged at him, this time taking more than his tongue.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 163

This week's photo is from a Russian photographer called Mikhael. They've got some really great photos. I wasn't sure which one to pic, but I thought this offered the most. They called this one Global Warming.

I have used this prompt to try and thrash out some ideas I am working for a novel I am writing. I think it works quite well with the picture.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




The Tree

‘What is this place?’

‘This is how the world would look, Michael, if I hadn’t continued with what I had started.’

‘What ravaged by drought?’

‘Yes, and famine and pestilence.’

‘But that tree is surviving.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Have you looked closely?’

Michael lifted himself up from his prone position, and pulled himself further up the incline. He had no strength for anything more. He was totally spent. Days of shifting from time to time, parallel to parallel, place to place. He was confused, disorientated, and exhausted mentally and physically. He had no idea when he last ate or when he last had something to drink. It took all that he had left to crawl on the dried cracked ground.

‘It’s a mirage, isn’t it?’

‘It could be, or it could be a figment.’

‘What’s the difference?’

‘The difference is whether you believe this place is real or not.’

Michael’s mind swam. ‘Why are you playing with me? Why all these riddles?’

‘I need you to understand why I do the things I do. If you don’t understand, how can you continue it?’

‘I don’t want to continue it, I want to end it.’

‘Then this is the end.’

‘But the tree?’

‘Arh, then there is hope. The tree typifies all your hopes and dreams. Everything you wish this place would be, that you wish life would be, but it can’t survive in a barren, desert. It needs water, it needs sustenance. We all do. And most of all it needs roots.’

‘Please just get to the point.’ Michael was parched. He was struggling to swallow. He just wanted to go home and have a long, cool drink. It’s all he could think about.

‘You ask me why I do what I do. I do what I do to sustain worlds; to keep people safe. Give them somewhere to belong, to exist, to stay put. If I don’t do that, then what you have experienced is what happens.’

‘But you caused it. You caused the imbalance by uprooting them all in the first place. Everything was fine and balanced before you came along and ruined it.’

‘Ruined, Michael, really? Are you sure? I simply found a way outside of it, a way to work around it. A way to influence it, and bring a different kind of balance; a way to stop the self-destruction.’

‘Self-destruction? But you push people out of it, you knock them through like dominos falling: one steps into another, and into another, until it doesn’t stop, it goes on forever.’

‘But it doesn’t, Michael, your own world proves that. And here, Michael, look around you, do you see those dominos here? Are they falling here?’

‘No, there’s nothing here. This is the world after you ravaged it.’

‘Me? You think I did all this? You think I’m capable of it? I have my fun and games, but to bring a world to the brink like this takes a collective, Michael.  It takes mankind.’

‘But the tree?’ Michael couldn’t take his eyes off it. ‘How can the tree exist here?’

‘It’s a good question, Michael, it exists because you want it to.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘What you believe is what will be in this time and space, Michael, it’s that simple.’

‘Nothing is that simple.’

‘Really? Try it.’

And then Michael was there, standing in front of the tree and touching it. It was real, it was here, and he was standing under it. It began to rain. Water poured through the leaves, and he opened his mouth to drink.

‘See? It sustains you. You believed it could, so it did. Just like I believed I could be outside of the worlds and I was – just as you have been in your pursuit of me. You can have whatever you want.’

‘But I just want to go home and be left alone.’

‘Really, Michael? Twice now you have come to find me; twice now you have wanted answers.’
‘But all you do is taunt me, and torture me.’

‘You do that yourself, because you won’t accept your future, your legacy. Let me give it to you.’

Michael wanted to keep resisting but he knew The Jester spoke the truth. In the end it was inevitable.


Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 162

This week's photo is from Polish photographer Leszek Paradowski. They have some incredible art. Definitely worth checking them out. 

I've gone super short this week. This was really all I had - and saw when I got this pic. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.





Consciousness

He cast it again over the water in the hope that it would remain aloft this time and not sink as it had done previously, poisoning itself with contaminated water and not succeeding in its journey to be all that it could.

He tried his hardest to guide it and aid it to its full, limitless potential, but if its vibration became too low, he couldn’t stop it dipping into the water and taking on weight that would only pull it down further.

It was hard juggling these worlds. Some rose higher than others and he marvelled at their beauty but others refused to allow themselves to climb and insisted on becoming bogged down in external, mindless distractions, refusing to see the light within and sustain it.

If enough ascended they would gather and create an interconnected labyrinth of consciousness, as he had always meant them to be. He hoped this one would join it, eventually.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 161

This week's photo prompt was taken by Ole Begemaan over on Flickr. It is inside a derelict Sanatorium in Brandenburg, in the district of Berlin (south of Pottsdam), Germany, which was abandoned in 1994.

About the sanatorium: Built between 1898 and 1930 as a sanatorium for lung diseases, Beelitz-Heilst├Ątten was one of the largest hospitals in and around Berlin. It served as a field hospital in the two world wars and was later the Soviets' major military hospital in East Germany. Abandoned in 1994 with the Russian withdrawal, it had fallen into disrepair. 

Inspired by thoughts of my 79 year old mother who is suffering for COPD and living alone -  in another country. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




Breathless

He tried to take a deep breath, but it felt like he was breathing in forever without it going anywhere. He started coughing, and ended up caught between the cough and the inability to breathe, while resisting the urge to throw up – a daily struggle in his condition. He leaned heavily on the basin as he fought to regain control, his body already frail and weakened by the sickness.

Once he could breathe in shallow half gasps again and the desire to vomit had passed, he brought his head up and gazed out of the large circular leaded window above the sink. The view of the sanatorium’s extensive grounds brought him light relief in these moments of darkness – moments that seemed without end. He hoped to go out there again and sit on the bench under the great oak trees and take in the air. He imagined being able to inhale its sweetness and feel relief from such a simple gesture, rather than it crippling him. But time was short now and he was no longer sure if that would ever happen.

He shuffled round and looked at the bed. It was only a few steps away but felt like a marathon in his current condition. He dared to let go of the basin rim and step forward, inch by inch, not allowing his mind to lead him into panic as he stood freely without support and the risk of falling rose.

By the time he reached the bed the light in the room had changed and he knew the best part of the afternoon was gone. Another day passing in snippets: one minute at the basin, hours later at the bed, what happened between just a long moment of attempting to breathe and stay upright. Then he’d spend hours lying on the bed moving in and out of consciousness, until he had to move again. It was a cycle of purgatory he had to suffer while he waited for his body to give up.

As he lay he wondered if it ever would, and if others had grown tired of waiting, as he couldn’t recall how long it had been since he’d seen anyone, either carers or visitors. And then as he looked round he noticed there was dust over everything and grime round the sink and toilet, he couldn’t remember when he’d last seen the cleaner. And then as cracks began to appear and paint started to peel he began to realise he had lost his grasp on time. How long had he been here?

He lay on the bed looking at the door, its wood cracked and warped. When had it last been opened? He moved off the bed and started his journey towards it. When he reached it and pulled, it fell to the ground, allowing him seconds to move out of the way, the dust it threw up putting him into a coughing fit that felt like it went on for eternity – and maybe it did.

He shuffled along corridors that had flaked and crumbled in places, and navigated stairs whose carpets were squelchy underfoot, until he found himself looking at the once majestic front doors. They were bowed and hanging off their hinges. It gave him free access to the outside which he shuffled towards at what he considered an accelerated rate.

Before he knew it he was outside and into the overgrown gardens, hunting for the bench, the one he would stare at from his room above. He discovered it lost in the meadow of grass and shuffled onto it, hoping that sitting there would bring the calm he always imagined.

It took a while for his breathing to simmer down from gulps to gasps, during this time the light overhead changed as though a cloud had uncovered the sun. He felt rays of warmth surround him and his gasps lengthen to normal breathing. What was this?

He felt himself float off the bench into the air, and turning his head, looked back and saw a crumpled skeleton on the wooden seat, one that looked like it had been there for decades.

And then it came to him, it had; his body had died years before, his soul trapped by the mental purgatory he’d been living in. Stepping out of self-torture, he’d finally been able to see the truth, and release himself from it.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 160

This week's photo prompt is an aerial picture of the Mir Mine, in Mirny, Russia. This picture is everywhere so untraceable, but for more pics of the mine and background on it, check out this link. 

Took me a while but I quite like this one. Who knows, it might turn into a serial. I've not done one of those in a while. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




At The Bottom

They drove south, in two cars, to find where it had landed, and came across the crater by a large, sprawling town. They worked their way round the deserted town, expecting to find devastation and destruction, but they found neat and tidy, and empty, homes. They looked for people, but there was no one living or dead. Where had everyone gone? It was clear it had been inhabited only days before: food was fresh in the fridges, homes were clean, cars weren’t covered in dust of any sort; electricity still worked and water still ran.

So they turned their attention to the landing site. They travelled the perimeter of the immense circular hole in the ground, bigger than a small town, and began to see something they didn’t expect: roads.

They spiralled round and down, each with a small plateau large enough for a vehicle – and not just any vehicle, mining vehicles. This was a mine, and yet their GPS also confirmed it was the site of the meteor crash. Could the meteor have landed inside the mine? It was possible. Had the people been evacuated? After several calls to different agencies there was no evidence of any such instruction, plus with cars in driveways and houses still fully stocked it didn’t appear that such an undertaking had taken place, so what had happened here?

Jerrod was the first to suggest it, and Christine wasn’t in agreement, but after much debate and with Floyd giving the casting vote, a decision was made that six out of the eight of them would travel in their two cars down into the mine to see what they could find.

Christine and Albert would stay behind at the top, using one of the civilian cars to wait in, and be on the receiving end of the walkie talkie should anything happen.

Christine had a bad feeling about it. Albert tried to jolly her along, but she struggled to be upbeat as they listened intently to the others. The drive to the bottom seemed uneventful but then static started to interrupt their broadcast.

“I’m not sure ... was that? ... ... hear it too? ...  do that, no!” It was Jerrod.

“Shit! ... they’re ...  the car! Look ..., no ... out now! Come ...” Floyd’s voice.

They heard the screeching of tyres and scraping of metal. Then they heard some kind of chanting, lots of voices, like some kind of collective. Christine could feel the hairs rise on her arms.

“Get ... from ... No! Leave ... alone!” It was Jerrod. He started screaming as did the others in his car.

Albert started the engine.

“What are you doing?”

“Going in there, we can’t just leave them!”

“Yes we bloody well can!”

“Then get out of the car; I’m going in!” Albert leaned across Christine and opened her door, shoving at her as she undid her seat belt. She snatched up the walkie talkie and got out, just having enough time to slam the door as he drove off. To his death, Christine was sure.

Then Floyd’s voice came through.

“Christine, Albert ... you ... me?” He was panting heavily.

Christine could hear the sound of tyres on gravel, he was driving. She quickly depressed the button on the walkie talkie.

“I’m here Floyd, I’m listening. Albert is on his way to you.”

“We’re ... our ... back. Don’t ... anywhere.”

“I can’t hear you very well, Floyd.”

There was no more sound just blasting static. She hated it and wanted to switch it off, but didn’t dare. Then she spotted cars moving along one of the roads, winding their way round and round. It was Albert’s car and Floyd’s. Jerrod’s wasn’t with them.

She waited, hoping the static would clear. It didn’t. Then she saw the cars coming towards her, and Albert’s face. He was screaming something, and beckoning at her. She looked at the other car, at Floyd and two of the others, they were smiling but there was something wrong with their faces. As the car got closer she saw it was their eyes, they had changed shaped and the colour wasn’t right, they were all black and shiny.

Then the passenger door of Albert’s car flew open and his words reached her, “Get in! Quick!” She leapt into the passenger seat while the car was moving and he sped off.

“What is it? What’s wrong with them?”

“I don’t know, but I’m not stopping to find out!”



Friday, 29 May 2020

Review: Sleeping Beauties, by Owen King & Stephen King

Sleeping BeautiesSleeping Beauties by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't settle on whether I should rate this a two or a three, so maybe a two and half would be more accurate.

Reading this book wasn't easy, I dragged myself through it as I don't believe in reviewing anything that I don't finish, so I insisted on finishing it, because I wanted others to not waste their time with it.

The only reason I can think that this book made it through is due to Owen King being son of Stephen King. If this book had been written by anyone else it wouldn't have been accepted for publication in its current form, a lot would have had to happen to it first. So I am disappointed with the editors that were thanked at the end of this book. I think they did a disservice to their profession - one I share as a developmental editor - and they sold out to sales over quality. Because by putting Stephen King's name on this book it guaranteed sales, so it didn't matter if it was edited well or not. And I am fairly confident there isn't much of Stephen King in this book, not much at all.

I am a Stephen King constant reader. I feel I know his writing and the first couple of hundred pages of this book read nothing like his style of writing, even down to the use of words. It felt like someone trying to copy his type of writing and approach to a story (switching between characters to show what is going on). There was a point in this book that it actually built some momentum and flowed for a while, maybe that was SK's influence or piece in it, but sadly it didn't last long.

As an editor there were entire chapters I would have cut out of this book. While reading it, there were entire sections that added nothing to the story at all and were just surplus to requirements. This book is a lesson in adding too much background information and information dumping, practises frowned on in the writing world. This 700 page novel could have come in at 3-400 pages and been a great, tight, read.

The general premise of the story is okay, but it failed in execution. Too many characters by far, so many unnecessary to the story and FAR too many brought in at the end. And within those characters, unnecessary interruptions in the story to tell the reader something completely irrelevant to the story about the character. I actually found myself skim reading, something I hate doing, and usually when I find myself doing that I stop reading a book, because for me it means I am no longer engaged in the story or interested in the characters. There were too many to care about, and there didn't need to be.

The story was also not resolved fully in any way - no explanation given as to the events of aurora or who Evie Black was. It seemed only to be used as some kind of platform to talk about men and women and how men might behave if women were gone (violent and irrational). It felt like a sort of apology to women, and what they have to put up with from men and living in a man's world, which I was fine with, but then towards the end it turned into a sort of man-hating narrative, which I don't agree with, and tried to use it as a reason for the story, but it didn't work well at all.

For me personally, Tommyknockers was the worst SK novel until now, as in that SK spends too much time on character backstory, but it wasn't badly executed like this, it had a proper story and story arc. Which then makes me question SK's On Writing and all his writing advice in that. It makes me wonder if he has actually read this book in its entirity, and actually did collaborate, or simply endorsed it with his name to give his son a boost.

This book has done nothing to inspire me to read any future work from Owen King - and I don't plan to. I read this solely due to SK's name being on it, which it's publishers knew would work. Some might say that I was the one being gullible, but really, he and his publishers should make sure what they publish under his name is quality otherwise that audience will disappear.

I am now dubious, as The Outsider was disappointing, and I still haven't bought Elavation or The Institute yet, and I am wondering if I should.

So no recommendation here.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 159

This week's picture prompt is Jeannie Anne Numos aka i-am-JENius over on their page on DeviantArt, an artist based in the Philippines. They have some incredible pieces. I might have to use a few more. This one's titled 'Vanished Route to Demirville'. 

And we have another Tricky story, the 10th one, providing even more background information about her. She is easy to write. I hope to write something quite a bit longer for her soon. 

Here's the catalogue for my reference as much as anyones
Week 154 
Week 148 
Week 146 
Week 138
Week 132 
Week 126 
Week 122
Week 119
Week 77

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.





Brewing Storms of Change

Tricky looked at the sky. It was coming and she needed to prepare. Others wouldn’t, they’d think it was just another storm, but she knew that sky, she’d seen it before - and over these same train tracks.

It had been when she’d had to flee with her mother. Well, mother, she used the word loosely; she hadn’t been Tricky’s biological mother and despite raising her, she hadn’t really mothered Tricky either. She’d solely seen Tricky’s gift when she was a baby, and been in a position of power to take possession of her and nurture it, and bend it to her will. Tricky thought she should feel some kind of gratitude, but really she felt nothing. Feelings hadn’t been important when she had been growing up; they’d only been used for tuning into things and to manipulate others. Tricky had learnt otherwise over her, but back then she’d had no choice but to do as she was bid.

Her mother’s will had been one of greed and power, but despite having been successful initially, she’d pushed it too far, and they’d had to run for their lives. The world might have been reduced to a mere scrap of its population, but humans were the same creatures they’d always been – suspicious and jealous. And the wheels of time turned in circles, or some said spirals, repeating itself until someone twigged. Tricky and her mother had twigged – her mother was link and had taught Tricky to be – but only a handful of others had, and they had gained power by other grubbier means, and wanted to possess Tricky’s mother and Tricky – or have them burned at the stake like in the good old days.

Tricky still remembered that night: her mother pulling her by the arm through the forests, shouting incantations to get the trees onside and hide them. Then she’d heard the train, the freight ones that travelled between the remnants of cities carrying what little people had to trade. Her mother had dragged her to the edge of the tracks, the rushing of the passing carriages making Tricky dizzy, and counted down to a giant leap into one of the semi-empty freight cars. And they’d managed it, bundling up in a corner, hiding behind a couple of crates, and stayed that way until they’d safely disembarked in the next district.
Tricky had looked out at the sky through the cracks in the slats that made up the freight carriage, and watched the storm gather and swirl, feeling it inside, knowing it was more than just a standard storm.

It had been a prelude to change, another cleansing for the people who had grown too big in their boots. It was the kind of storm you wouldn’t survive, not just for its wrecking winds and flooding rains, but for what was contained within, the very poisons that had brought about the end of what they’d called ‘civilisation’ all those centuries ago.

Tricky and her mother had known that then, as Tricky knew it now. They’d found a safe place and hunkered down, protecting themselves, not only from the storm above, but the one that would rage again through the people.

Tricky had since returned after control of it had changed hands, knowing that what she needed was here; her mother having taught her that it held the core of all manifestation.

Tricky sniffed the air, and gauged that she had just a couple of hours to get back to her dwelling and ward it with protections. There was no time for dawdling, she must gather what she needed on the way and get ready. Others might be scared, but Tricky was thrilled. A new time was about to be ushered in, and a chance for her to find a new place within it.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 158

This week's photo prompt was taken by Mariana MA on 500px. She calls it 'Freedom'. Very powerful picture. 

I went for a different kind of story this time. I don't often write gangster things, but this is what came out.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.




Broken Links

It had taken a while but Mikey had found the broken link. He’d made sure he’d been thorough; he didn’t want to make a mistake – that would be bad – and now he was taking care of it.

He drove up to the cabin where Paulie had told him to get some R&R after disposing of it. He smiled to himself. They were pleased with him. He’d finally garnered some respect and might move up a few links in the chain.

The cabin came into view. It was a luxury one Paulie had had built. It had all the trappings of a resort, but was more secluded and only used by their organisation.

When he pulled up outside there were two other cars. He frowned, he wasn’t alone, even though he'd expected to be.

A large, stocky man in his late forties came out. “Mikey, how the hell are you? Paulie told us to expect you.”

“Hey Jimmy, I’m good thanks. Paulie sent you?”

“Yeah, he said you may need some help, you know. You got it with you?”

Jimmy nodded.

“Okay, let me get Ahmed.”

Jimmy disappeared inside to return with Paulie’s number two, Ahmed. He was as wide as he was tall, and solid muscle. He wasn’t someone you messed with – but then neither was Mikey.

“Hey Mikey, how you doing?”

“Hey Ahmed, I’m good now I’ve resolved the problem. Looking forward to taking a break.”

“Sure thing. Everything’s been laid on. Me and Jimmy’ll be leaving you in peace after.” Ahmed winked at Jimmy.

“What do you want to do, Mikey? Take five minutes or sort it now?” Jimmy said, ignoring whatever Ahmed had meant by the wink.

Mikey paused. These guys were further up the chain and he didn’t know them well enough to read their body language, but his gut told him something was wrong.

“I could use a drink and a leg stretch; it’s been a long drive.”

“Sure, come in and have a drink.” Jimmy beckoned him in, Ahmed following behind.

The place was spotless and no expense had been spared on this enormous ranch-like house. It was open plan and the extensive hallway led into a huge lounging area with wall to ceiling glass windows overlooking a huge swimming pool with the sweeping view of the forest covered mountains as backdrop.

“Wow, impressive.”

“It is,” Ahmed said. “Paulie knew what he was doing when he built this place.”

A bar ran along the back of the room and they all headed that way, Jimmy slipping behind to prepare drinks. A bourbon was put in front of Mikey and he swallowed it down in one, hoping it would quell the bad feeling. It didn’t. Jimmy immediately topped it up and Mikey swigged the next one down.

“Got a thirst, Mikey?” Ahmed perched on a stool next to him.

“I need it to take the edge off, you know?”

“Sure do.” Ahmed glanced at Jimmy and that was when Mikey knew. The broken link he’d discovered and disposed of hadn’t been the only one, there were two more right here. Paulie didn’t know they were up here. They were here to stop Mikey.

A third bourbon was placed in front of Mikey, and this time he stood up and took it with him, walking to the windows and taking in the view again. They didn’t follow him. His mind raced trying to work out a plan. He could run to his car or stand his ground? Which would it be?

The choice was taken from him as Ahmed barrelled into him. They weren’t wasting any time. Jimmy ran over as Ahmed tried to pin Mikey down and hooked a piece of wire over his head, aiming for his throat. Mikey managed to get a hand under it to stop it tightening. He thrashed about, making it difficult for them to hold him as he bent his right leg up under him and reach for the knife attached to his calf.

He plunged it in under Ahmed’s ribs and twisted, but didn’t wait, pulling it out and swinging his arm up over his head, hitting Jimmy full in the face with it, causing him to topple over. Mikey wriggled out from under them and took a breath as they lay there dying.

Now he had three bodies to dispose of, and a phone call to make to Paulie, before he could take his R&R.